back to article SpaceShipOne man, Nobel boffins: Don't panic on global warming

The debate over global warming flamed hotter over the weekend, as a group of eminent scientists and engineers – including Burt Rutan, the famous designer of the X-prize-winning suborbital rocketplane SpaceShipOne – signed an open letter stating that the dangers of climate change are being deliberately exaggerated. The …

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  1. mark 63 Silver badge

    yes panic

    Global warming really isnt an issue , certainly not something we can consciously change.

    I say this because if its all "grossly exagerrated" then its a non issue,

    If we ARE affecting the climate and if it is possible to reverse this by cutting co2 then theres no way on earth we could bring ourselves to cut enough co2

    However...

    The co2 output is about to cut itself , fossil fuels are about to start their inevitable decline , much faster than any targets we could possibly achieve, so we are going to fix global warming wether we like it or not .

    problem is its going to at the expense of our entirecivilsation and the world as we know it.

    1. Michael Thibault
      Mushroom

      errr... uhhhh...

      "problem is its going to at the expense of our entire civilsation and the world as we know it"

      Problem? What problem?

      Change will do you good.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "a large and growing number"

    What was the civilisation whose number system went 1, 2, lots?

    Perhaps they're using that?

    1. Michael H.F. Wilkinson Silver badge
      Trollface

      It's "one, two, many, lots"

      Sgt. Detritus

      Troll, because, well, this is Sgt. Detritus

  3. Blofeld's Cat
    Trollface

    Global warming?

    "That would be an ecumenical matter!"

    1. despicable me

      You are Father Jack and I claim my five bottles of drain cleaner.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Warmists?

    So, the other lot are what - Coolites? Nullists? Status quoits?

    Hurry up please, there's a nickname deficiency that needs sorting.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Well....

      The Panicking Warmista's.......Chicken Little's.......versus the Don't Panickers... perhaps?

      I do hope there's time for the scattered remnants of survivors to read this before the whole of the East coast dissolves in a fiery cloud of CO2 warming induced Magma...........

      1. Oninoshiko

        I have my prefered terms already...

        Themageddonists vs. Denialests!

  5. Mr Young
    Thumb Up

    You're making me think about RTG's again

    What's the radiation tolerance if it can heat me hoose for 80 to 120 years? Or, alternatively - how big is the hole it needs?

    1. Mike Richards Silver badge

      You're not thinking big enough

      Plutonium 239 produces 2W/kg in decay heat. A few hundred kilos of that should keep you nice and toasty and put an end to any problems with the neighbours just as soon as you declare yourself an independent nuclear state.

      There are 87 tons of the stuff in the UK right now - we should be parcelling it up to help old people stay warm this winter.

      I have so many good ideas.

      1. Brewster's Angle Grinder Silver badge

        @Mike Richards

        "There are 87 tons of the stuff in the UK right now - we should be parcelling it up to help old people stay warm this winter."

        What's brilliant about that idea is they'll all be dead before the cancer hits*, _and_ it gives us an excuse not to visit. Trebles all round.

        *I know, Pu-249 is an alpha emitter.

  6. Richard Andrew Jefferies

    And on the other hand......

    Forbes magazine, hardly a left leaning, tree hugging journal, had this to say......... http://www.forbes.com/sites/petergleick/2012/01/27/remarkable-editorial-bias-on-climate-science-at-the-wall-street-journal/

    1. Alan W. Rateliff, II
      Paris Hilton

      By-lines...

      Except that it's a contributed article, the "personal musings" of, and part of regular contributions from, Dr. Peter Gleick, founder of the Pacific Institute. While PacInst has its main focus on water, it does make this statement directly from Dr. Gleick, himself: "The threat of climate change cuts across all of the Pacific Institute's programs and has been a focus of our work from the beginning." This posted under one of the institute's listed programs and initiatives called "Climate Impacts and Adaptation."

      Paris, a focus of our work from the beginning.

  7. bill 36
    Mushroom

    the climate is definitely changing

    Many parts of Austria have reported almost 4 metres of snow since December.

    They call it white gold.

    Temperature forecasts for this week are to get to -20c below.

    A few weeks ago it was also below -24, only the fifth time in 45 years.

    So i think many people are happy with "global warming" :>)

    ps

    summer sucks!!

    1. cloudberry

      winters don't mean there is no global warming

      It is now the middle winter in the northern hemisphere, so snow in Austria is to be expected. It's getting to be a pretty threadbare joke to point to snow on the ground and say, "What global warming? Ha ha!"

      However, if you like anecdotal evidence, here's some: the past autumn was the warmest here in Finland for decades, with no permanent snow anywhere in the country at the end of October, and no permanent snow in Helsinki until after the New Year. I hear that the autumn in UK was pretty warm too. These things in themselves doesn't prove or disprove anything, of course; for support of the theory of anthropogenic climate change, you need to look at long-term trends in temperature -- and those indeed do support the theory.

      The fact that the _average_ temperature of the Earth is rising doesn't mean that seasonal changes will disappear, nor that the usual random variation between years will disappear. It does mean that the frequency of incidences of low temperatures will decrease, and conversely, the frequency of incidences of high temperature, i.e. heat waves, will increase. Other extreme weather phenomena will also increase in frequency.

    2. bill 36

      hmmmm

      10 apostles of the apocalypse didn't get the joke!

      Frankly i'm more worried about how it is that people can become ardent believers in any subject without absolute proof the of the theory.

      Even the scientists admit that man made global warming is still a hypothesis, albeit a likely one.

      And since our breathing population is in an ever increasing trajectory, could someone please explain how we are going to reduce CO2 emissions. I've yet to see any published figures on how much CO2 is produced by living breathing creatures on this planet.

      1. cloudberry

        In science, there is no such thing as "absolute proof", but there is a point where the evidence so overwhelmingly supports a hypothesis that it can be accepted as the truth for all practical purposes. Climate science is now at that point with regard to anthropogenic global warming. Yes, of course there are still lots of details to be filled in, and when one of those details is corrected -- by the scientific community! -- then eager denialists, such as Lewis Page of this august publication, rush to point to it, in order to cast aspersions on the main point.

        The main point is this: carbon dioxide, and some other gases, trap some of the Sun's radiation within the Earth's atmosphere; humankind is putting huge and increasing amounts of these gases into the atmosphere; the result is that more radiation is trapped, therefore increasing the total energy within the atmosphere-and-oceans system, therefore increasing the average temperature, which has various effects, many of which will obviously be bad for humankind. The rest is filling in the details.

        For a further response on your accusation, I point to a previous letter of mine, the second at thread http://forums.theregister.co.uk/forum/1/2011/07/01/lunar_camera/, titled "@Norfolk 'n' Goode".

        (El Reg: It would be nice to have permalinks to posts, and the possibility of inserting hyperlinks at letters.)

        1. Drewc (Written by Reg staff) Gold badge

          Re:

          You mean like <a href="http://forums.theregister.co.uk/post/1303450">this</a>?

          The hash beside post headlines is a permalink. We are thinking of making a more obvious way of showing this.

          1. cloudberry

            yes, that

            Thanks, I didn't realize that. Yes, it would be a good idea to make it more obvious, like naming it "permalink" or something.

  8. Alex King

    So what?

    Isn't scientists trying to prove theories right or wrong how we get to the facts? Debating this amongst the unqualified masses probably doesn't help, and neither does the anecdotalism being indulged in here.

    Everyone needs to just chill out (ho ho) for a while and put their claws away.

    Oh, and everyone has agreed that "global warming" is a silly and daft term to use, so anyone who still uses it as a stick to beat "warmists" with is being more than a little obtuse.

    1. Mad Mike

      @Alex King

      I would normally agree that the debate amongst experts is good and hopefully takes us to the right answer. Unfortunately, as the people with money have largely lined up in the 'warmists' camp, no scientist who wants his research grants etc. to continue can do anything but support this argument. Science in various areas (and global warming is one of them) is no longer about finding out the truth and more about ensuring the funding stream keeps coming.

      That's effectively what the people in East Anglia were saying. If global warming isn't an issue, they're about to become very poor!! So, global warming simply HAS to exist. That's why they have surpressed evidence to the contrary and refuse to show the last decade (ish) on graphs.

      1. Simian60
        FAIL

        "I would normally agree that the debate amongst experts is good and hopefully takes us to the right answer. Unfortunately, as the people with money have largely lined up in the 'warmists' camp, no scientist who wants his research grants etc. to continue can do anything but support this argument."

        The people with money (oil companies, car manufacturers, power generation corps, industry in general) have largely lined up with, and funded, the 'denialists'.

        If a reputable scientist went to Exxon, and said "I can prove* global warming is rubbish, all I need is the cash", then I'm sure the bucks would be rolling in, and the resulting papers would be filling the climate science journals.

        As that has not happened, one has to accept that the 'warmists' who _have_ provided mountains of evidence, are probably correct lest one appear a moron.

        "That's why they have surpressed evidence to the contrary and refuse to show the last decade (ish) on graphs."

        What, like this you mean?

        http://climate.nasa.gov/keyIndicators/index.cfm#globalTemp

        * for sciency values of prove, obviously.

        1. Josh 15

          "...The people with money (oil companies, car manufacturers, power generation corps, industry in general) have largely lined up with, and funded, the 'denialists'..."

          This is one of the biggest myths. 'The people with money' are the denialists? Really? You just haven't done ANY homework at all, have you? Go check out the total sums (totalling in the hundreds of $billions) handed out annually to pro-warmist NGOs and puppet organisations such as the discredited IPCC and it's bottom-feeding leeches. You might be shocked just how much of your taxpayer money is siphoned off into these greedy, self-serving organisations.

          In comparison, the anti-AGW movement (if there is such a thing) receives but a pittance from private benefactors (and no taxpayer funding at all), some of which might well include fossil fuel companies. Just do you research and go seek the figures for yourself. I guarantee you the BIG BUCKS are with the pro-AGW brigade. They always have been, right from the very start of this disgraceful charade.

          1. NomNomNom

            "In comparison, the anti-AGW movement (if there is such a thing) receives but a pittance from private benefactors"

            That's all they need because they do propaganda, not science. The anti-AGW movement doesn't need to design and put satellites in orbit for example. Blogs are cheap.

          2. Piobairean

            How has the IPCC had been discredited? Since is does no research itself but only reviews and assesses papers written on climate issues, and is composed of thousands of scientists from about 180 countries which are members, I find that hard to believe. Are you saying that these scientists ( all volunteers by the way ) have somehow been bribed ? I doubt it; I've known many scientists and getting them to agree on what brand of scotch to order is a challenge. As for the 'denialists' ant their lack of funding , the Koch brothers and EXXON have spread a bit of money around. The tobacco industry developed the tactics of 'the science isn't definitive' and they've expanded on it. What is foolish is the idea that scientists are pro-AGW because of the grant system - obviously you've never applied for a grant or you would know that's ridiculous. Read a few of the abstracts of papers on climate and you will see what I mean.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Simian60, the problem is, the billions of dollars are rolling in, for the alarmists. And it's not just taxpayer cash (although there's plenty of that, many billions a year), companies such as Shell, Exxon, etc, also contribute. And if someone comes up with a proposal to show that AGW is "irrefutable", the millions roll their way, regardless of how ludicrous the proposal or how scientifically inept the work.

          By contrast, the so called "denilaists" (nice holocaust reference there BTW) are marginalised and proposals to demonstrate, for example, a lack of warming, are not only very difficult to get funding for, but are also frequently excluded from publications not because of the quality of the work but the conclusions.

          AGW work is mostly no longer "science", it has become politics. Writers like Gleick with their fervid imaginations claiming persecution are simply playing unpleasant political games. Publish scientific fraud supporting AGW and you'll get promoted and published in places like Nature, attempt to bring notice of such fraud to public awareness, and you'll get traduced from pillar to post everywhere from Wikipedia to New Scientist editorials. Yet the fraud remains.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            It's far worse than that. The climategate e-mails show direct actions by Mann and company to remove journal editors that don't follow the party line. The fact that Gleick is complaining about FOIA requests for Mann's correspondence given the demonstrated McCarthyism from the warmist side is rich enough for me to retire.

            1. Piobairean

              I understand 'climategate' was investigated by both the university and by a committee of the House of lords and was found not to have engaged in any scientific or academic fraud.

  9. radioaktivty
    Unhappy

    Nobel boffin ≠ being someone to take seriously with regard to AGW

    He may have won a Nobel, but Ivar Giaever would be a bit more credible if

    a) he'd published any peer reviewed articles AT ALL in the field of atmospheric science/global warming etc. during his career

    b) wasn't signed up with the CATO institute - notable for denying/downplaying the health effects of cigarettes.

    The fact that the tactics of the AGW denial camp are so similar to the tobacco lobby downplaying health effects in past decades does make me rather suspicious of them.

    I'm still hoping we'll sort out fusion power so we can stop having desert wars and coughing up trillions of dollars to a bunch of religious nutters (ok, not ALL Texans are religious nutters). It'd also be nice not to have to wait until London is underwater find out which bunch of scientists were right.

    1. Richard 12 Silver badge
      Unhappy

      London being underwater won't prove anything

      Well, unless we have cut our CO2 emissions before then, in which case it proves cutting was pointless as far as climate change is concerned. (Reducing reliance on religious nutters is a good idea though)

      In chaotic systems it's rather difficult to prove "If we had done X in the past we'd have Y result by now." - there's the same problem in economics, and that much easier to measure!

      I have still not seen any evidence showing that meeting the CO2 targets would actually have a notable effect on global temperatures at all - nobody even appears to have published a "Carry on!" against "Kyoto" (or whatever agreement) prediction.

      Not sure what that implies - possibly that it really won't make much of a difference, which may be why China can't be bothered. People won't forgo jam today if there's no chance of jam tomorrow no matter what.

      (Pie in the sky when you die works. Hell and damnation regardless of your actions? That's a hard sell!)

      Some politicians talk of us being on a cliff edge, but that seems to have been approaching for a decade so...

      There seems a dearth of checking of the predictions at all really - for example, use the 'best' model with the data up until 1990 to predict 1990 to 2010, and compare against what happened in reality.

      - I'm really hoping that this latter was done and is just buried in the publications that us mere mortals cannot read, but I would expect it to have been made public by one side or the other if it matched particularly well or badly, which implies it was probably inconclusive each time or just never done.

      For a long time there has been an appearance of a requirement for the "science" to give the "right" answer if they want funding next year, so is it any wonder there is so little trust?

      It's a mess, and it's the politicians and lobbyists who made the mess, and made the science so hard to do properly.

  10. Michael H.F. Wilkinson Silver badge
    Joke

    Don't Panic!

    They should have used large, friendly letters in the headline.

    On a more serious note, climate debate is fine, it is what science is about. If proof is incontrovertible, then the global warming advocates need not resort to strong-arm tactics. If it is not, the skeptics have every right (if not duty) to challenge it.

    Saving fuel seems a good idea whichever way you look at it. Oil has uses beyond keeping hummers on the road.

  11. Yag
    Trollface

    "The evidence is incontrovertible"

    This kind of sentence should void any credential as a scientist...

    1. ridley

      Glad to see someone else read that and thought hang on..........

      (Sometimes the GWists really do not help themselves and this from someone who on the balance of the evidence that MMGW is a reality.)

  12. Big_Boomer
    Facepalm

    Who cares?

    We'll all be dead before they manage to prove it one way or the other.

    Climate Change happens. It has happened since the planet first realised it had a climate.

    The causes are varied, complex and constantly changing.

    What the "Scientists", as usual, are failing to state is that they don't know.

    They "believe" but can't prove but are adamant about their beliefs.

    And these are the same people who deride the "Creationists"? <LOL>

    1. Piobairean

      It's easy to deride 'creationists' , at least from the point of view of science. And most scientists don't believe; they are convinced. In an interview Richard Dawkins said he was ' 6.9 out of 7' certain there was no god - he couldn't be absolutely sure he said, because as a scientists he was never absolutely certain of anything. Bertrand Russel once said something to the effect that it was a shame so many stupid people were so sure they were right and so many smart people worried so much that they were wrong.

  13. Rune Moberg

    I see your 255 and raise you 8774

    http://www.petitionproject.org/

    9029 PhDs in the US alone who seem to not buy into the CO2-hoax.

    That a gas so vital to all life on this planet should be deemed public enemy #1 is so extraordinary that IMO it requires a lot of evidence and observations to back up such tomfoolery.

    Whenever I see a "we are doomed" newspaper headline, I can't help but notice that they fail to provide links to the underlying research. We, the unwashed masses, are asked to accept a helluva lot on face value alone. Quite frankly annoying.

    1. Aaron Em
      Joke

      Oh, jeez, more random non-climate-scientists with an axe to grind?

      Edward Teller? Who's he? If he's not on the IPCC panel, I guess I just don't care what he says about climate change, and I don't see why anyone else should either -- and besides, the domain was registered by a Republican, so obviously it's just a Koch-funded shill for the oil companies.

      1. Yag
        Mushroom

        Well, to be fair...

        Edward Teller made a major contribution on local warming of earth...

    2. Malcom Ryder 1

      where did you get the number 9029?

      1. Rune Moberg

        9029

        Follow the link on the first line of my comment..?

        "including 9,029 with PhDs" it says in big friendly letters.

  14. Adalat
    Holmes

    It is not science to quote sixteen opinions, however well qualified (or not). What research have these people done that supports their argument, and where is it published?

  15. sconzey
    Trollface

    Unintentional hilarity...

    The unintentionally hilarious aspect of the warmist letter comparing attacks on Climate Scientists with McCarthyism, is that McCarthy was later proved absolutely correct, at least in so far as his belief that there was a great deal of unacknowledged co-operation between the US civil service and the Soviet government, and that there was a strong pro-Soviet influence in US media and politics.

    Where his analysis failed was in imputing malevolent motivations to those involved, and branding them as "un-American" when, for the most part, the diplomats and journalists sincerely believed that they were acting in the best interests of America and Americans, and -- most importantly -- in keeping with the fundamental spirit of America. Acheson and Hiss didn't see themselves as betraying the US, but living up to it's highest ideals.

    1. NomNomNom

      "Where his analysis failed was in imputing malevolent motivations to those involved, and branding them as "un-American""

      Isn't that what the term McCarthyism is about?

      It was a comparison with McCarthyism, not McCarthy

  16. Old n Cynical
    Meh

    <meh/>

    I don't see that it matters... Aren't we all supposed to burn in some catastrophic event caused by the so-called Galactic Allignment this year?

    But if science still can't agree on, for example, solar forcing, what hope is there for accurately extrapolating a spit roast future?

    It's perhaps a moot point for some but:

    1) Atmospheric CO2 concentration levels are curently lower than in most other geological time periods

    2) The more recent temperature fluctuations are not as pronounced as others during the Pleistocene and Holocene.

    3) The latest fluctuation is actually less most others during the Holecene.

    4) Whilst the concentration of atmospheric CO2 is currently on the rise, it has increased at a greater rate in previous Eras.

    The smaller the snapshot of geological data used the worse the scenario seems. It's getting warmer without doubt, but on a geological timescale it's nothing unusual.

    If the 'warmies' cut the alarmist crap they might get a better reception.

    1. NomNomNom

      "1) Atmospheric CO2 concentration levels are curently lower than in most other geological time periods"

      They are higher than they've been for millions of years

      "4) Whilst the concentration of atmospheric CO2 is currently on the rise, it has increased at a greater rate in previous Eras."

      You are missing a hugely important piece of the puzzle here. The current rate of CO2 rise is extremely fast compared to previous eras. In fact no past example of a faster CO2 rise is known.

      1. Old n Cynical

        "They are higher than they've been for millions of years"...

        I think you missed the part where I mentioned geological time periods... That's a lot more than just a few million years. Current atmospheric CO2 concentration levels higher than in most other *geological eras*? Absolute hogwash. A few million years is just a tiny snapshot compared to gelolgical timescales. Atmospheric CO2 was higher during the Precambrian, the Paleozoic, the Mesozoic and previous Cenozoic periods. (Although the Paleozoic does show a huge decline, which is perhaps not surprising).

        "The current rate of CO2 rise is extremely fast compared to previous eras. In fact no past example of a faster CO2 rise is known."

        That would depend on what data you choose to look at as far as I can tell. I can find seemingly endless sets of conflicting data.

        The Paleozoic (Silurian/Devonian) and Mesozoic show rapid increases in atmospheric CO2.

        Since the Tertiary, the general trend for CO2 and tempertaure - over geological timescales - is a not insubstantial downard trend. That is simply an incontrovertible truth, whichever side of the fence one sits on - although some do prefer to use a smaller data sample to avoid addressing this fact.

        Though of course, if we pump all that sh*t back into the air - we contribute to any warming. It's the size of the contribution that is unproven and we are not yet in another wamhouse. (I do recall my Planetary Science lecturer - many years ago - having a good old rant about man-made global warming... It's just a shame I cannot convey his words here... Too many profanities).

        1. NomNomNom

          "The Paleozoic (Silurian/Devonian) and Mesozoic show rapid increases in atmospheric CO2."

          100ppm in a century? No.

          The fastest CO2 spike known is at the PETM 55 million years ago and that was slower than the current increase.

          1. Old n Cynical

            Meh x 2

            "100ppm in a century? No"

            I am not aware of any data for the PETM that can provide accurate data for *100 year timesteps*. I am only aware of averages spread across 10,000+ years. If you can point me to a scientific source that provides PETM data in accurate, century timesteps (which are *not* a tiny part of a much larger average) - so that I can all draw a direct comparison against the last century - please do. If not, I fail to see how that statement holds.

            Don't get me wrong - we are contributing to a (potentially) big problem - without doubt. It's the FUD driving some of the science that I take issue with.

            At the end of the day we are not yet clever enough to determine if our current experiment on the global climate will roast us all. Even if we were to become able to accurately determine the furture for the climate, whichever camp was left our in the cold would always find a counter argument - it's the nature of the beast.

        2. Piobairean

          We've doubled atmospheric co2 in the past century burning the coal laid down in the carboniferous. I'm sitting beside a large river which once teemed with salmon and trout; none left now because of acid rain caused by burning coal. The acid resistant species that remain can't be eaten because of mercury from the same source. This isn't progress, it's a slow suicide. Global warming is only one reason why we should find a way off the fossil fuel roller-coaster. As a bonus, maybe we can save a few dollars not bombing Muslims so we can steal their oil.

          1. Richard 12 Silver badge
            Facepalm

            @Piobairean and the river

            The damage to that river has nothing whatsoever with CO2.

            Acid rain is caused by sulphur dioxide (and similar), and never CO2 - and coal electricity generation has had effective scrubbers to take out NO2, SO2 and the like for decades.

            Environmental damage like that you mention is made considerably worse by many of the supposedly 'green' technologies we are being pushed towards in the name of Climate Change.

            Perhaps the most obvious is that CFLs are a major source of mercury pollution, a lot of other nasty chemicals and are almost impossible to recycle.

            In fact, most of the 'low energy' and 'green generation' are indeed low CO2 - but involve much higher emissions and releases of rather nasty pollutants that are genuinely poisonous to life.

            CO2 is temporary, mercury is forever.

    2. Michael Thibault
      Mushroom

      Another point, possibly moot...

      "... perhaps a moot point for some but:

      1)...other geological time periods

      2)...during the Pleistocene and Holocene.

      3...during the Holecene.

      4)...in previous Eras."

      At no time in the past has there been 7 (or so) billion humans all crying for the technological teat, with all increasingly dependant on the very complex, energy-costly relations--in the broadest possible sense--between them that feed the hope of another mouthful. Most can't swim.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        So why not adress the population problem with as much gusto?

    3. Bob J.

      Simply not true

      Saying it is doesn't make it so.

    4. This post has been deleted by its author

    5. ridley

      So what?

      I agree with you that in the past C02 levels and global temperatures have been much, much higher. But we as a species were not alive then, we are not adapted to living (certainly not 7 billion of us) in a much warmer world.

      Of course from one perspective it doesnt matter, life on Earth will go on whatever we do.

      Whether our society does is a different matter entirely.

      1. Piobairean

        True - atmospheric oxygen peaked at over 30% during the carboniferous .. we wouldn't last long at that level. The insects did well though; dragonfly's as large as ravens.

  17. NomNomNom

    "The debate over global warming flamed hotter over the weekend, as a group of eminent scientists and engineers – including Burt Rutan, the famous designer of the X-prize-winning suborbital rocketplane SpaceShipOne"

    The thing is Burt Rutan has a website on which he has a PDF about his views on climate change and it's chock full of the worst of the worst psuedo-scientific claptrap. He's no authority on climate, he's bone ignorant about it.

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "People like to be frightened."

    That's what I was told on my first day working for a news empire.

    Shocking headlines sell airtime and newspapers, such a shame (as stated above) that these so-called scientists have used the "incontrovertible" word.

    How can anyone make a good study of a climate system that takes centuries to change?

    I'd like to think we can all be adults about this, but keeping the folks scared sells and gets votes.

    See also:

    Curse words.

    Flat Earth

    Expanding Earth

    Vulcan

    etc....

  19. mittfh

    Warming

    It's possible (perhaps even probable) that the Earth is naturally warming - the extent to which anthropogenic emissions contribute is debatable.

    It's certainly true that the earth has experienced warmer periods in the past, but in the past the earth's population was significantly less than at present, and buildings / communities weren't as fixed as at present. If a community noticed sea level rise 1,000 years ago, they'd just incrementally move their houses further inland (or even relocate the community further inland).

    Over the past hundred years or so, buildings have tended to be more fixed - hence from Victorian times onwards people have built sea defences to try and stop the sea encroaching further inland. So whereas sea level rise wasn't a problem in times gone by, it's A Big Problem now. After all, if due to a landslip you find your house which was previously 1/2 mile from the cliff edge suddenly gets a lot nearer, you probably won't be able to insure it or sell it, and you can't just move it to a vacant plot further inland as someone else will own that plot, so you'd have to (a) buy it, (b) obtain planning permission to build a home there, (c) build a brand new home there (modern buildings aren't portable!), and (d) hopefully dismantle the old home before the sea does it for you.

    Regardless of the extent to which anthropogenic emissions contribute, it's likely that reducing them won't stop the warming process. So rather than bleat on about drastically reducing energy consumption, maybe people / organisations / governments can start modelling what effects are plausible (for example, we're already seeing increased instances of extreme weather events compared to a few decades ago - and in the UK although total annual rainfall hasn't changed much, it's more likely to be dry for most of the month then the month's quota to arrive all at once, which puts extra pressure on storm drains and culverts) then start working out ways we can adapt.

    1. Mike Street

      " After all, if due to a landslip you find your house which was previously 1/2 mile from the cliff edge suddenly gets a lot nearer"

      That would be due to a landslip, caused by erosion. Not sea-level rise.

      "So whereas sea level rise wasn't a problem in times gone by, it's A Big Problem now."

      It's about a foot per century. Tidal ranges are more than a few metres - you are unlikely to notice 30cms a century when there is a 3-4 metre change twice a day. The sea level is rising about as fast as your fingernails grow. And has been for some hundreds of years. It may even be slowing.

    2. ridley

      "If a community noticed sea level rise 1,000 years ago, they'd just incrementally move their houses further inland (or even relocate the community further inland).

      Over the past hundred years or so, buildings have tended to be more fixed - hence from Victorian times onwards people have built sea defences to try and stop the sea encroaching further inland"

      I suspect that 1000's of years ago they thought their towns/cities were in fixed positions just like we do.

      If so they were deluded, perhaps we are too. New Orleans anyone?

  20. BeeReasonable
    FAIL

    This article fails in the first five words

    "The debate over global warming..."

    Few areas of science enjoy a higher level of consensus *among scientists* than global warming, despite the millions (billions, if you count campaign contributions) spent by the fossil fuel industry to spread disinformation. Every national foundation of science in the industrialized world agrees that enormous increases in CO2 output due to human activity will, if unchecked, have catastrophic effects. (The last year alone saw another 6% increase in CO2.) We are only beginning to see the effects in more intense weather; during this century absorbtion of CO2 by the ocean will raise the acidity of ocean water to the point where most sea life will be destroyed. At this rate, melting ice will raise the sea level by a couple of meters by the end of the century; if you're curious, in a world with no ice the sea level would be approximately 250 feet higher than it is now. Draw your own conclusions about what qualifies as a catastrophe.

    1. NomNomNom

      you go too far. there may indeed be a mass extinction of deep ocean life due to ocean acidification but I think "most sea life will be destroyed" goes too far.

      Similarly "At this rate, melting ice will raise the sea level by a couple of meters by the end of the century" is a worse case scenario, it's likely to be lower than that.

      But you are nevertheless more accurate than the 16 signers of the WSJ article

      1. Sean Baggaley 1
        FAIL

        You, sir, are a troll.

        For those who couldn't be bothered to read the actual letter, here is the full list of signatories:

        Claude Allegre, former director of the Institute for the Study of the Earth, University of Paris; J. Scott Armstrong, cofounder of the Journal of Forecasting and the International Journal of Forecasting; Jan Breslow, head of the Laboratory of Biochemical Genetics and Metabolism, Rockefeller University; Roger Cohen, fellow, American Physical Society; Edward David, member, National Academy of Engineering and National Academy of Sciences; William Happer, professor of physics, Princeton; Michael Kelly, professor of technology, University of Cambridge, U.K.; William Kininmonth, former head of climate research at the Australian Bureau of Meteorology; Richard Lindzen, professor of atmospheric sciences, MIT; James McGrath, professor of chemistry, Virginia Technical University; Rodney Nichols, former president and CEO of the New York Academy of Sciences; Burt Rutan, aerospace engineer, designer of Voyager and SpaceShipOne; Harrison H. Schmitt, Apollo 17 astronaut and former U.S. senator; Nir Shaviv, professor of astrophysics, Hebrew University, Jerusalem; Henk Tennekes, former director, Royal Dutch Meteorological Service; Antonio Zichichi, president of the World Federation of Scientists, Geneva.

        Do you seriously believe I should ignore the opinions of all of these people in favour of some random internet troll who thinks "NomNomNom" lends his posts that extra touch of depth and gravitas so lacking in these forums?

        And there I was thinking that the President of the World Federation of Scientists might actually have a clue how science is supposed to work! Clearly, I was mistaken.

        I mean, naturally, I should always go with the side that has more money. There's certainly an awful lot of money sloshing about in the pro-"Chicken Little" camp—not least because many, many companies stand to benefit from the lavish grants and subsidies governments are now encouraged to fork out, despite many nations' economies slowly floating down Shit Creek without any sign of a canoe, let alone a paddle.

        I have been convinced by NomNomNom's clear, lucid and unbiased response! More windmills, I say! Never mind the naysayers who point out that we've tried relying on wind power in the past and didn't exactly stick with the technology when "alternative fuels" appeared on the scene! More solar photovoltaics are urgently needed to cover those unsightly roof tiles that blight cities like London! More! More!

        1. NomNomNom

          A skeptic making an appeal to authority! priceless.

          1. Sorry that handle is already taken. Silver badge

            Re: Nomnomnom

            Standing barefoot, frozen bloody hands

            his musket clutched, an iron grip

            and for the cause, he has but one regret

            he's only got one upvote to give

  21. Sanity Soapbox
    Meh

    It's been done before

    Such "open letters" have been tried before. But the establishment (educational, scientific, political and media) is what ends up being in control of public perception, and temporary furor over a published open letter highlighting the "dirty little controversy" is soon forgotten.

    The only way this controversy won't be buried by the established manipulators of public perception is if someone (or organization) carries the torch and keeps this issue fresh before the public eye. This will of course earn them villification by the powers that be and will bring with it other significant costs (grants, recognition, etc.)

  22. Stevie Silver badge

    Er...

    "Irony"?

    It would be irony if Professor Lewis had reversed his position on one of the two matters.

    The word you are looking for is "consistent".

    Though personally, I've seen the Athabasca Glacier and I don't need convincing the place is getting warmer, or - to judge by all the soot on it - that there's a component to that that is entirely due to the burning of fossil fuels. I also seem to recollect that the US army has plans - perhaps as yet speculative - on how to deal with the fact that the domestic wheat belts are walking North and will eventually be in Canada.

    I don't care. I'll be long dead before Da Yoofs start fighting over edibles and water. Serves 'em right. You get the climate you live in. Falling standards, wouldn't happen in my day, etc etc etc.

  23. energonic

    You do better

    Who caused, or didn't cause, global warming is irrelevant now. It's an academic (and amateur) discussion that won't change anything. What has, or hasn't, caused it is much more interesting and much more relevant.

    The important thing is to be able to understand and predict climate well enough to be able to mitigate the bad effects and benefit from the good. So climate models need to be good. You deserve to be heard only if you can demonstrate modelling methodology and results that fit the known facts better than the current models.

  24. Graham Bartlett

    Quotes

    If they're going to run that quote of Trenberth's, it's only fair to also run this one:-

    "It is amazing to see this particular quote lambasted so often. It stems from a paper I published this year bemoaning our inability to effectively monitor the energy flows associated with short-term climate variability. It is quite clear from the paper that I was not questioning the link between anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions and warming, or even suggesting that recent temperatures are unusual in the context of short-term natural variability"

    And any mug can set up a club called the "World Federation of Scientists". I could set up one called "World Federation of Mongolian Lizard Men With Magic Powers". It doesn't make me one. To quote the guy's Wikipedia entry: "Nobel Prize laureate Hans Bethe has been quoted saying about Zichichi "eccellent organizer, mediocre physicist"." So clearly you may well have been mistaken.

    It's also interesting to look up the "World Federation of Scientists". They state publicly that their biggest achievement after 15 years of the organisation existing was to have roughly categorised the ways we can screw up the world and to have decided to set up Working Groups to think about it. Anyone else thinking the Golgafrinchams' committee at the end of "Restaurant at the End of the Universe"?

    Basically, there's four possibilities when it comes to overwhelming concensus. Either they're all insane, or they've all been bribed, or they don't have the right information, or they're right. Hopefully we can rule out mass insanity. Uni tenure tends to be a bit less profitable (by orders of magnitude) than working for an oil company, which tends to make you wonder about the second one. The unis are making all their research publicly available, and are the only people putting significant funds into actual investigation, which suggests they're the best informed people when it comes to point three. So go figure.

    No, climate change will not kill the Earth. It won't even kill all the humans, or make too much of a dent on species generally, especially not in the long run of evolution. But it'll fucking *muller* a large fraction of the Third World which is already well in trouble, and it won't do much good for large portions of our countries either. Whether you think the deaths of billions of people is worth us doing something about or not is your call, of course.

  25. Graham Marsden
    Boffin

    Here we go again...

    ... let's stop getting into the "Tis!" "Tisn't!" "Tis so!!" arguments and just do our best to use *ALL* our energy in a more efficient manner, that way we stop chucking out CO2 (and other pollutants) *and* extend the availability of fossil fuels whilst we put serious money into alternative methods of energy generation.

    Win, win.

  26. brale
    WTF?

    TheRegister is an excrement of a website

    TheRegister is an excrement of a website. It is supposed to provide critical articles, but then it falls for the unscientific denier propaganda. What's next? Astrology?

    I do not recommend any more, and I advise people to stay away from it.

    1. Drewc (Written by Reg staff) Gold badge

      Re: TheRegister is an excrement of a website

      We fall for nothing. You have misread the article.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      The unscientific is the whole alarmist schtick. You know, give us billions and keep giving us billions, make us important people. Oppose us and we'll villify you in every available forum, attempt to get you removed from your position, get you labelled a kook and other such terms.

      And all this while producing outright fraudulent science, hiding the data so the results can't be checked, and deliberately evading FOI and related legislation.

  27. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    This is embarassing. That article, which was editorial and signed by a 16 scientists (many of whom are NOT climate scientists!) was chosen over another open letter, signed by 225 scientists, and submitted by the UN National Academy of Sciences, which said pretty much the opposite.

    Also, look out over the next few days for the responses from the climate science community to that letter published in the WSJ.

    http://www.forbes.com/sites/petergleick/2012/01/27/remarkable-editorial-bias-on-climate-science-at-the-wall-street-journal/

  28. Van

    Great, so we can carry on pumpng shit into the atmosphere. Breathe easy everyone.

  29. Rogan Paneer
    FAIL

    Sceptics must be getting desperate

    Why did they only manage to get ONE practicing climate scientist to sign? Surely Lindzen wasn't the only one they asked? What about Roy Spencer? Judith Curry? Hendrik Svensmark? Epic FAIL. Sure they can appeal to Burt Rutan's expertise in climate change, the same way they can seek the Pope's expertise on cable tv installing- it's as relevant.

    This will die quickly because the letter is so unconvincing. The points it raises are demonstrably fallacious- no new, substantive arguments, just the same old stuff. This letter was crafted for tabloid-readers and Fox-viewers and a passing mention in the media, rather than to persuade a presidential candidate.

    1. Forestman
      Devil

      Doubtful and exhausted

      I'm wondering if Rutan just want's to make sure he doesn't need to apply for carbon credits for his rocket exhaust. His signing of the letter doesn't make me doubt anything but his own motives.

  30. Caltharian
    Big Brother

    Statistical analysis

    A long time ago when i studied GCSE Statistics the first lesson that we learnt was that statistics mean whatever you want them to mean.

    This still rings true, both arguements for and against global warming can be proven correct with statistics, the major differences between proving it correct or incorrect would be the size and scale of the statistical samples used.

    And anybody dealing with statistics that wishes to prove or disprove a theory with them will use the data sets that best fit their preferred outcome.

  31. Forestman
    Stop

    Logic Experiment for Everyone

    Here's a little exercise that everyone can do.

    Draw a large 2x2 grid on a sheet of paper. Label the the columns "No GW" and "Yes GW". Label the two rows "No Effort" and "Max Effort". Now fill en each of the four squares with both the expected outcome and the worst outcome.

    The easy one is No GW and No Effort. Global warming is not a problem and we put no effort into combating it. Business as usual.

    Next is No GW and Max Effort. Se we spend a huge sum and there was no need. I bet we'll find that we not only improved the livability of this planet, but also will probably discover new technologies. This might just make the investments worthwhile.

    Now consider Yes GW and Max Effort. If GW is a fact, then this is where we want to be. Will it be enough? Who knows. But as above, we'll at least improve things somewhat and maybe save us from disaster.

    Finally, Yes GW and No Effort. Global Warming proving to be real and possibly deadly, and nothing done about it is the least desirable outcome. Frankly, the minimum "worst" would be a serious downgrading of the planet's livability, and likely large-scale famine. The maximum "worst" would be mass extinctions of plants and animals, and an enormous toll on the human population, including the tiny, but nonetheless real, possibility of human extinction.

    So, for me, the two No Effort squares yield Neutral and Bad results, whereas the two Max Effort squares yield Expensive But Good and Absolutely Necessary results. So even if I did not have an opinion on whether Global Warming was a real and present danger or not, logic tells me the payoff is better if we treat it as such.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      There are a lot more than four boxes.

      If you go with your two columns, then the "Max. Effort" column also means we make the planet unlivable for anything by massive emissions of mercury, heavy metals and all kinds of really nasty chemicals involved in the majority of the "Low/Zero CO2" technologies that are being pushed.

      All in the name of "Zero CO2".

      There's also more than two rows - at the very least the "Yes GW" divides into "GW, minimally anthropogenic" and "GW, mostly anthropogenic".

      So in the case of "Max. Effort", "Yes GW, minimally anthro", we damaged our economy (and our environment), and still ended up with the bad effects of GW.

  32. JP19
    FAIL

    16 Scientists were really dumb enough to sign this?

    "The fact is that we can't account for the lack of warming at the moment and it is a travesty that we can't."

    This Climategate scandal lack of warming referred to lack of warming in recent tree ring derived temperature records which didn't match the warming in recent instrumented records. One or the other has to be wrong. If it is the tree rings it casts doubt on historical tree ring derived records required for all the 'unprecedented warming' claims, if it is the instruments it casts doubt on man's ability to measure global temperature at all and the claimed recent warming.

    They chose to pretend the problem didn't exist and ignored recent tree ring derived records which was a scandal but not an indication they thought there had been no recent warming.

  33. Mike Bell
    Alert

    The Mice are Furious

    If you think you are so clever and know everything, just reflect on that for a moment.

  34. Spud2go
    Pint

    Meanwhile...

    ...those with the smarts are still making piles of cash out of this whole debacle.

    Just an observation.

  35. Jaymax
    Holmes

    Meh. Essential Context.

    Oreskes, Naiomi: "Merchant of Doubt", ISBN:978-1-59691-610-4

  36. worldnick

    Physicists and Mechanical Engineers are Not Chemists and Climatologists

    Sure they are both 'scientists,' but if you can claim to know anything about a field other than your own simply because you are a professional in another field then as a software engineer I can state without a shadow of a doubt... that POLAR BEARS CAN READ MINDS. Trust me. I am an expert at something. It doesn't matter what I'm an expert at now.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Physics is everything.

  37. paulc
    Mushroom

    Right you warmists... here's one I prepared earlier...

    http://wattsupwiththat.com/2011/12/07/in-china-there-are-no-hockey-sticks/

    Try and argue against that evidence...

    It's long term cycles that add and subtract to give the overall global temperature... and we're about to go into a cooling phase...

    If you look at the evidence... you'll find that there have been periods in the past few thousand years where it has been WARMER than it currently is... and it's always amusing when the warmists keep trotting out the hottest year for xxx years when you look back just before that xxx date, it was hotter and we were most certainly NOT chucking CO2 into the atmosphere at any perceptible rate at all...

    What lost the warmists their argument for me was when they started labelling everybody that didn't believe them as "denialists"... a nasty label deliberately intended to bring to mind the holocaust denialists...

  38. vwestin
    Holmes

    Starting with the premise of human activity...

    The big challenge here is not to prove that the globe is warming or cooling. There are an amazing number of things that effect the global climate, and it is going to keep changing. I think most of the people on both sides of this issue agree that the climate is different from decade to decade.

    The question is around man's contribution to, and possible control of, the changes. Sometimes we are ignorant of what we cause, and sometimes we are arrogant enough to think it all revolves around us. And somewhere in there is the truth.

    Those who are asking that man’s production of CO2 be reduced start with the premise that man is the primary driver in the changes in global CO2 levels. There is the secondary premise that CO2 levels are the primary driver of global temperature change. Given all the variables in the second, I have so far focused on the first.

    If man is the primary driver of global CO2 levels, then there should be a reasonable correlation between the changes in man’s production of CO2 (from fossil fuels) and the annual change in the global CO2 levels.  Given such a correlation, it seems clear that to then reduce the levels of human CO2 production could slow, or even reverse, the increases in global levels.

    Unfortunately, the current data does not show a good correlation between the annual changes in CO2 levels and the annual rate of fossil fuel consumption. The global levels, measured in Antarctica for 20 years, do show an always increasing trend. However, the rate of increase each year varies wildly. You can find the data here:

    http://cdiac.ornl.gov/trends/co2/jubany.html

    And a summary of global carbon output here:

    http://cdiac.ornl.gov/trends/emis/glo.html

    You can build a statistical analysis to look for the correlation between the rate of annual increase in global CO2 (I use the December numbers, but the annual averages work as well) and the rate of annual increase in human CO2 production. My calculations on the data show no meaningful correlation at all, which makes it difficult to believe that they are causally related. Here is a small sample, during times of fluctuation in human activity:

    Year Human CO2       Atmosphere CO2

    1999-2000       up 2.46%          up 0.24%

    2000-2001       up 2.40%          up 0.64%

    2001-2002       up 0.93%          up 0.56%

    2002-2003       up 5.52%          up 0.42%

    2003-2004       up 4.95%          up 0.62%

    If the human production of CO2 is driving the global CO2 levels, then I am sure there is a model that explains why they are not changing in ways that are more closely related.

    1. NomNomNom

      The increase in atmospheric CO2 is proportional to the absolute human CO2 emission, not the increase in CO2 emission. Even if humans hold emissions constant CO2 level would still rise. It's like filling up a bath, even though the tap is on a constant rate the water level in the bath will still rise. The absolute rate of human emission determines the rate of CO2 rise.

      "The global levels, measured in Antarctica for 20 years, do show an always increasing trend. However, the rate of increase each year varies wildly"

      The reason is that there's natural noise in the data from year to year. To get the signal you need to smooth it.

  39. John Armstrong-Millar
    Coat

    It's not rocket science

    Politician to Scientist "the weather seems to be changing and extreme events are becoming more frequent. should we be worried?"

    Scientist thinks.. mmm well looking at core samples I could tell him that the next ice-age os well overdue and the likelihood is that there will be a fir degree of instability before that "kicks off" in about 500yrs.

    Scientist to Politician "well your are right to be worried however I will need funding to look at all the implications..

    Scientist thinks... mmm I could spin this out for years.

  40. Sir Lancelot

    I can't help but wonder what expert-at-everything Newt Gingrich's opinion is on global warming. Should we all retreat to the moon? Using a Rutan designed Virgin Galactic shuttle?

    Now where did I leave my spacesuite...

  41. Derek Foley

    Erm, what about the maunder minimum?

    Remember the recent reports about the "Maunder Minimum" (400 year cyclical minimum of solar activity). Lets hope any man-made inflence global warming might have reduces the coming mini-ice age!

  42. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Whose Science is the Stronger - part 1

    I find it exceptionally amusing when we get into arguments between pro and anti Anthropogenic Climate Change camps when one of the strawman arguments used is that someone isn't a climate scientist. A lot of current climate science is built upon other sciences. Also, many of the mistakes and problems in climate science have resulted from errors in the application of other sciences. One of the biggest examples of this was the hockey-stick graph. Because the climate scientists working on the analysis had failed to get their statistics properly evaluated by an expert statistician they made some fundamental mistakes. They incorrectly applied Principal Component Analysis and generated a method that if you feed in random auto-regressive data (red noise for example which is a completely random brownian motion) in 99% of the cases you get a hockey-stick shape.

    There are plenty of other examples where other hard sciences could aid climate research, but by rejecting the analysis of people who aren't working directly in climate science you can end up with a biased position. For example, geologists have a lot of views about long term climate variability. Engineers can provide a lot of useful information about positive and negative feedback in models and the effects of that feedback. Most importantly though, physicists (and biochemists as well) produce more statistical models of complex systems than anyone. If anyone is in a position to peer review the statistical models that drive much of climate science, physicists should be top of the list.

  43. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Whose Science is the Stronger - part 2

    Most importantly, at no point can you claim that something in science is irrefutable. To make that claim leaves real scientists in a position of incredulity. The weight of opinion in climate science at the moment is strongly in favour of the hypothesis that the Earth is warming, and less strongly in favour of the hypothesis that this is either entirely, or in large part, a result of human activity. If we look back in history, science is littered with positions that current science is largely in support of which then change: Newtonian mechanics being superceded by relativistic mechanics; the development of quantum mechanics. Also, in mature sciences there are dissenting papers being published all the time. Sometimes these dissenting papers can lead to a change in the status quo, more often though they are wrong. But allowing the dissenting papers is crucial to pushing science on. The recent potential discovery of faster than light neutrinos is a great example. I am almost certain that this experiment will not survive scrutiny. But if I'm wrong, science could fundamentally change.

  44. runwaysend

    Regarding Burt Rutan, while not a climate scientist, if you know him personally or those who he's contracted by and works with, the Proteus aircraft was a good platform for conducting high altitude research with specialized payloads, and Burt tends to be rather surrounded by scientists and engineers who work with an array of sensor technologies and platforms quite beyond the reach of civilians and academics. As we saw recently, he is anything but 'retired' -and more free to innovate and be Burt Rutan. His voice in this carries a great deal of credibility.

  45. Perisoreus

    Harrison Schmitt, relevance of climate scientists

    First, minor clarification. Harrison Schmitt is not just a former astronaut and senator, he has a PhD in geology and is well versed in planetary geology. Such disciplines are as important for understanding climate change as climatology. Why? Two main reasons. In terms of scientific understanding, you need historical understanding of the earth to put present observations in context. In terms of trustworthiness, let me be blunt. I have nothing against climatology or climatologists. But as a profession, they are extremely vested in anthropogenic global warming. I can't blame them for not wanting to rock the rock the boat. People from other scientific fields have a better chance of approaching the issue more neutrally. Yes, some may have different incentives, e.g., if your work supports fossil fuel development. But here's where Schmitt is particularly interesting. A few years ago, at least, he was promoting an alternative engery source, fusion power using lunar helium-3. He could have used CO2 as a supporting argument, like the rest of the nuclear industry, but he did not, because in his scientific judment, it's not a very big concern. He's not some oil company shill.

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