Opinion: Climate change anything but settled

February 22, 2014


— I repeat: I’m not a global warming believer. I’m not a global warming denier. I’ve long believed that it cannot be good for humanity to be spewing tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. I also believe that those scientists who pretend to know exactly what this will cause in 20, 30 or 50 years are white-coated propagandists.

“The debate is settled,” asserted propagandist in chief Barack Obama in his latest State of the Union address. “Climate change is a fact.” Really? There is nothing more anti-scientific than the very idea that science is settled, static, impervious to challenge. Take a non-climate example. It was long assumed that mammograms help reduce breast cancer deaths. This fact was so settled that Obamacare requires every insurance plan to offer mammograms (for free, no less).

Now we learn from a massive randomized study — 90,000 women followed for 25 years — that mammograms may have no effect on breast cancer deaths. Indeed, one out of five of those diagnosed by mammogram receives unnecessary radiation, chemo or surgery.

So much for settledness. And climate is less well understood than breast cancer. If climate science is settled, why do its predictions keep changing? And how is it that the great physicist Freeman Dyson, who did some climate research in the late 1970s, thinks today’s climate-change Cassandras are hopelessly mistaken?

They deal with the fluid dynamics of the atmosphere and oceans, argues Dyson, ignoring the effect of biology, i.e., vegetation and topsoil. Further, their predictions rest on models they fall in love with: “You sit in front of a computer screen for 10 years and you start to think of your model as being real.” Not surprisingly, these models have been “consistently and spectacularly wrong” in their predictions, write atmospheric scientists Richard McNider and John Christy — and always, amazingly, in the same direction.

Settled? Even the U.K.’s national weather service concedes there’s been no change — delicately called a “pause” — in global temperature in 15 years. If even the raw data is recalcitrant, let alone the assumptions and underlying models, how settled is the science?

Last Friday, Obama ostentatiously visited drought-stricken California. Surprise! He blamed climate change. Here even The New York Times gagged, pointing out that far from being supported by the evidence, “the most recent computer projections suggest that as the world warms, California should get wetter, not drier, in the winter.”

How inconvenient. But we’ve been here before. Hurricane Sandy was made the poster child for the alleged increased frequency and strength of “extreme weather events” like hurricanes.

Nonsense. Sandy wasn’t even a hurricane when it hit the U.S. Indeed, in all of 2012, only a single hurricane made U.S. landfall. And 2013 saw the fewest Atlantic hurricanes in 30 years. In fact, in the last half-century, one-third fewer major hurricanes have hit the U.S. than in the previous half-century.

Similarly tornadoes. Every time one hits, the climate-change commentary begins. Yet last year saw the fewest in a quarter-century. And the last 30 years — of presumed global warming — has seen a 30 percent decrease in extreme tornado activity (F3 and above) versus the previous 30 years.

None of this is dispositive. It doesn’t settle the issue. But that’s the point. It mocks the very notion of settled science, which is nothing but a crude attempt to silence critics and delegitimize debate. As does the term “denier” — an echo of Holocaust denial, contemptibly suggesting the malevolent rejection of an established historical truth.

Climate-change proponents have made their cause a matter of fealty and faith. For folks who pretend to be brave carriers of the scientific ethic, there’s more than a tinge of religion in their jeremiads. If you whore after other gods, the Bible tells us, “the Lord’s wrath be kindled against you, and he shut up the heaven, that there be no rain, and that the land yield not her fruit” (Deuteronomy 11).

Sounds like California. Except that today there’s a new god, the Earth Mother. And a new set of sins — burning coal and driving a fully equipped F-150.

But whoring is whoring, and the gods must be appeased. So if California burns, you send your high priest (in a carbon-belching Air Force One, but never mind) to the bone-dry land to offer up, on behalf of the repentant congregation, a $1 billion burnt offering called a “climate resilience fund.”

Ah, settled science in action.

— Charles Krauthammer is a columnist for Washington Post Writers Group.


Bart Johnson 4 years, 3 months ago

Cue all the comments attacking the author or dismissing him entirely without addressing a single point raised in the article in 3....2....1....

John Graham 4 years, 3 months ago

Don't be too hard on the chicken littles, they drank the kool-aid and just "know" the sky is falling. They don't care the real world data doesn't match their preconceived models. The real world data has to be wrong if it doesn't match their models. They are too worried about telling everyone the sky is falling to be worried about something so insignificant as real data. It helps them sleep better at night to just ignore the real data.

James Howlette 4 years, 3 months ago

Was that intended to be ironic, or did it just come naturally?

Seth Peterson 4 years, 2 months ago

It's the Kraut, when he starts supporting his statements with something or opinions we'll address his points, until then he deserves to simply be ignored.

Ken Lassman 4 years, 3 months ago

Can folks see where Mr. Krauthammer made a huge leap of faith? In the second paragraph of his column, he equates the debate being settled about the fact of climate change with the SCIENCE of climate change being settled. The fact of climate change is very well documented and is beyond reasonable reproach if you look at the evidence. This does not mean that the science is settled at all, and that "climate" is a monolithic singularity.

What Mr. Krauthammer failed to do is succeed in clarifying the difference between observation and modeling, and the varying degrees of certainty the scientific community has in understanding the many, many aspects of the climate. Instead of going to a few of his favorite cherry pickers, he would have served himself much better by going to the source: the hundreds of climatologists who were involved in writing up the summary conclusion of their understanding of the climate: WORKING GROUP I CONTRIBUTION TO THE IPCC FIFTH ASSESSMENT REPORT CLIMATE CHANGE 2013: THE PHYSICAL SCIENCE BASIS

If he had done this, he could have avoided merely stirring already muddied waters and instead educated his readers on what is our current understanding of the climate. Let's take hurricanes, for instance, since he attempts to summarize the issue of Atlantic hurricanes with some lame factoids about Sandy instead of conveying what climatologists are saying. From the document cited above, here are some excerpts:

"No robust trends in annual numbers of tropical storms, hurricanes and major hurricanes counts have been identified over the past 100 years in the NorthAtlantic basin...although Grinsted et al. (2012) find a significant positive trend in eastern USA using tide-guage data from 1923–2008 as a proxy for storm surges associated with land-falling hurricanes. Differences between tropical cyclone studies highlight the challenges that still lie ahead in assessing long-term trends....More recent assessments indicate that it is unlikely that annual numbers of tropical storms, hurricanes and major hurricanes counts have increased over the past 100 years in the North Atlantic basin. Evidence however is for a virtually certain increase in the frequency and intensity of the strongest tropical cyclones since the 1970s in that region." p252-3

"There is low confidence in the projections for the tropical Atlantic, both for the mean and interannual modes, because of systematic errors in model simulations of current climate. The implications for future changes in Atlantic hurricanes, tropical South American and West African precipitation are therefore uncertain." p.1910

Mr. Krauthammer--and readers--would be much better served actually seeing what the scientific community means when it says that while climate change is a fact, the climate is complex and our understanding of it has varying degrees of certainty depending on what you are talking about. You (and he) can find out the details here: http://www.climatechange2013.org/

Gerald Kerr 4 years, 2 months ago

My goodness Ken, scolding Dr. Krauthammer for agreeing with the so called climatologists who have concluded, quoting your quotes: "No robust trends in annual numbers of tropical storms, hurricanes and major hurricanes counts have been identified over the past 100 years in the NorthAtlantic basin..."They go on to then predict once again going forward that they are "virtually certain increase in the frequency and intensity of the strongest tropical cyclones since the 1970s in that region." Same old same old from the IPCC experts. Their past models have failed miserably but their 'virtually certain" that in the future the strongest tropical cyclones will rival those "since the 1970's". What kind of minced and parsed gobbledegoop is that?

Dr. Krauthammer knows the climate does change as it always has changed. He also knows that there is no good evidence of the catastrophic human caused global warming that has been ceaselessly used as a mantra to increase taxes, fund green energy projects that enrich cronies of the present administration, and increase energy costs for the world sunk in economic decline and debt.

Ken Lassman 4 years, 2 months ago

Greg, Did you really read what I wrote? I commented that Mr. K mistakenly conflated the two statements "climate change is a fact" with "the science is settled," and you are having the same trouble. Read slowly while I once again describe the difference:

"Climate change is a fact:" there is a huge amount of data coming in from all quarters--observations that have been carefully calibrated, gathered in a number of independent and different ways, through different instrumental records, and the evidence is unambiguous: -human activity has released huge amounts of geologically sequestered carbon into the atmosphere, faster than the planet's "carbon sinks" can absorb, resulting in: -the amount of heat in the oceans going up; -the sea levels worldwide rising; -the ocean becoming more acidic because of the increased amount of carbon absorbed by the waters; -declining antarctic and greenland ice mass (as is cumulative glacial mass); -arctic sea ice volume trending down at a faster pace than in any other time in the past 1400 years; -combined global temperatures (combined=over land and sea) trending significantly upward (and the recent "pause" is not an indication of a change in this trend); -growing seasons, animal habitat and fisheries shifting poleward; -significant melting of permafrost over large areas of boreal forests and tundras, causing widespread disruption of the habitat; -extreme weather events increasing in intensity and frequency due to the increased amount of energy in the warmer planet and the increased amount of water vapor.

I could go on, and will upon request, but you have continually ignored these facts in the past even though I've provided links to back them up. Once again, if you dare, go to http://www.climatechange2013.org/ as a starting place. Regarding the "climate change is a fact" statement, just read all of the sections where the descriptions include "high probability," "virtually certain," "very high probability" and the like. These are the things that I have listed above and these are the things that I refer to when the scientific community has solid, clear evidence that climate change is a fact and that human activity is the main driver for the observed changes. You have not provided any evidence to the contrary because you have none, it is clear, or you would have produced it by now or pointed out where the evidence I have provided is incorrect. (continued below)

Ken Lassman 4 years, 2 months ago

(continued from above) Now, regarding the "science is settled" statement, it is transparently clear that within the well documented and agreed upon central conclusion that humans are changing the climate, there is much that is still not understood enough to make predictions on all the details, hurricanes in the Atlantic being one of them. Look at the reference again and read all of the sections that use language like "medium probability," "low probability" and the like.

Finally, your "catastrophic human caused global warming" means nothing because you persist in hiding behind the pronouncements of a few discredited individuals who have truly made extreme predictions of a hellish future right around the corner, and you once again conflate those statements as being the same as statements from groups like the IPCC, the American Meteorological Society, and American Geophysical Union, etc. who have raise much less extreme but very worrisome concerns about the future of the climate if we don't start reducing our carbon emissions.

Beator 4 years, 3 months ago

I am not a Scientist.

I think the climate has been changing for a few billion years though. If humans evolved from Earth processes, how can they change the climate if they are a natural result of Earth's evolutionary process? If humans could change climate, wouldn't their changing climate be a part of Earth's evolutionary process?

Now if humans were created, that's another process outside of Earth's process that Earth had nothing to do with. So, it could be said that humans can change climate?

Ken Lassman 4 years, 3 months ago

Great questions, Mike. If we evolved from "earth processes," we can indeed change the climate, just as the evolution of cyanobacteria 2.4 billion years ago began to change our atmosphere from having virtually no oxygen to the to 21% oxygen that supports the biosphere as we know it today.

Yes, the current changes caused by humans releasing huge amounts of geologically sequestered carbon into the atmosphere has reached the level of influencing the biosphere's biodiversity. Chances are excellent that over the next 10's to 100s of thousands of years, this carbon release will be reabsorbed by the earth's natural processes and our planet's biogeological processes could look pretty much the same as before, although there is some question as to what the mix of species will look like and what the new mix of species will do to those balances.

So we know we have the capacity as humans to change the climate--we've already done that. The question at hand is whether we have the capacity to restrain our activities that have changed the climate and replace those activities with others that don't impact the climate--and the earth's biodiversity--as much. I'm an optimist and think that we can, but who knows for sure? I certainly want to try.

Beator 4 years, 3 months ago

over the next 10's to 100s of thousands of years, this carbon release will be reabsorbed by the earth's natural processes and our planet's biogeological processes could look pretty much the same as before,

so we are a part of Earth processes. Therefore, it matters not what we do today...humans/ mix of species...mix of human species, 10's to 100s of thousands of years from now will adjust...?

Sounds good to me


Beator 4 years, 3 months ago

btw, I am all for keeping people productively busy. Idle hands are not good.

Ken Lassman 4 years, 3 months ago

You are correct that in the long run, things will work out--that's not the real issue. The issue is for the short term: a certain amount of climate change has been locked in due to the scale of things for the same reason you cannot make a 90 degree turn with an ocean liner going 20 knots. But even so, if we make some serious reductions in our carbon emissions starting as soon as we can, we can significantly impact the severity of impacts to our climate in the next century or two. Think of the difference between 2 or 3 feet of sea level rise and 6-10 feet of sea level rise and the impact that would have on the world's coastal cities, agriculture, economies, etc. Or the difference between years that have more extreme, warmer weather and years where the coolest annual temperatures are warmer than the warmest annual averages, with predictions of summers in this area that are 10 or more degrees warmer in the summer than currently.

Which will be costlier and more damaging? Changing the ways that we produce and use energy or living in a world where the climate exacts a greater and greater toll, with locked in changes where it will get worse for generations before it gets better?

Gerald Kerr 4 years, 2 months ago

Mropus Wan, Why should they reject global warming? The globe has warmed a bit since we came out of the little ice age of 1400 to 1850. Thank goodness it has. The globe warmed to a greater degree than present in the medieval warm period just preceding the little ice age, and it warmed even more in the Roman Warm period of 1600 years ago, and even higher yet in the Minoan Warm period of 3500 years ago...and on and on back to the recent (in geological time) peak warming period occurring 10,000 years ago at the climax of warming since the last (of many) great ice ages of 20,000 years ago. We are presently most likely heading toward the next great ice age which will be a great problem for our progeny as warm period peaks have been declining over the past 10,000 years.

Mropus, this latest period of minimal global warming is in no way outside of natural expectations and there is no scientific evidence that we are headed for catastrophic warming from natural or Anthropogenic causes.

Scott Morgan 4 years, 3 months ago

Our nation is in need and suffering, and we focus on a myth.

Geographically tiny European nations in comparison to countries like Mexico, Russia, and the U.S. are so eager to push global Warming/Cooling/Climate Change, do we ask why?

Tiny nations rich in mass transit, with giant green leaning techno corporations as Germany's Bosch, or Sweden's A.B.B. These nations and others are growing fat off the profits of ?. Of course we are dependent on oil and gas. We are different type country. So is Canada a nation refusing to sign self crippling feel good climate treaties.

Have our leaders forgotten our geography as we board up more and more factories across the country. Do we care about 75 year old citizens freezing because they can't afford to use our abundant natural gas reserves? Within a few miles of Larrytown, folks can tap free natural gas, and do. Within miles, sometime yards some folks are paying 3 bucks a gal. for propane. Which comes to 1500.00 to fill a 500 gal. tank. Huh? Free fuel seeping out of the ground, and somehow through regulations we can magically turn it into an unfordable and misunderstood fuel.

Oh, some of us find it strange, countries like Germany, Sweden, Japan, even Spain have cheap sources of electricity thanks to the ole U.S.A. They all use Nuclear power which seems to come with funding by us. Even long time U.S.A. critic Norway is silently going Nuke. Finally long overdue, Georgia is building the first Nuclear power plant in something like 30 years in our nation.

As we over-regulate ourselves into a third world nation, others build fiscally sound economies. All of this on a whim, a wisp of rumor. An ill wind so to speak. So convenient this fib, too much rain, climate change, too little same, giant storms climate change, lack of tornadoes same. Bold face lies, Arctic ice disappearing accepted so easily. Knock knock, Lake Superior just froze over for the first time in years. Should be noted Lake Superior shorelines have gone down, not up as predicted just 10 years ago. Not a scientist, but with the ice comes cooler lake temps in the Summer.

Pretty poor theory this rising of oceans levels, off by 100%. How many other weather science mistakes are still believed? Worse, never publicly corrected. Do they still force school kids to sit through An Inconvenient Truth anymore? No, this fiction film just silently went away.

Some of us remember Nuclear Winter, a big thanks to the 1960s New York Times. We need to act very carefully as a nation in dealing with how we deal with whatever they call it nowadays. I worry about our poor aging population shivering in their own homes due to energy costs.

Ken Lassman 4 years, 3 months ago

What an interesting mishmash of opinions, Scott. Where to begin. You say that folks like Russia, the US and Mexico are being forced by those little European troublemaking countries into falling for the global warming hoax, which gives them a type of advantage for their compact, high tech, high density countries over more sprawling counties? Hmmm...why was it Mexico that sponsored the IPCC talks in Cancun? Why is their last president, Jose Calderon, heading up the new international initiative designed to build momentum toward the next round of talks, the Global Commission on the Economy and Climate? Why do the co-sponsoring governments include South Korea, Indonesia, Ethiopia, Columbia, Chile and Mozambique, in addition to Sweden and Norway? A more population-density/technology/economically diverse mix could hardly be imagined. Check out their mission here: http://newclimateeconomy.net/content/about and I think you'll agree that your description of who is promoting dealing with climate change is nowhere to be found.

The high price of propane is nothing you have to tell me about--I use it, and am fortunate to have built a well insulated passive solar home with pellet stove backup to keep the propane to the minimum. There are huge benefits to everyone, including your 75 year old freezing friend, to weatherize and cut existing fuel use 25% or more, things that would pay for themselves in a few years if we made it a priority. I have a sense that this is a much more productive option than having folks go poking around for natural gas seeps to tap into and depend on. But you're right about getting more local control of our energy sources: the more we can develop a distributed energy grid that is locally owned and taps into the potential for wind and solar, the less dependent we are on whatever is happening at distant refineries that create the propane we've become dependent on.

The rest of your tirade seems to be based on the anecdotal extreme weather events, evidence of a changing climate, where California can be baking and England flooding while Chicago freezes. While it can be confusing, I suggest that a good place to get a handle on the big picture starting here: http://www.climatechange2013.org/ The Summary for Policy makers and overview presentations are good starting places, and if you want more you can delve into the full report.

This stuff is not going away--the evidence is mounting, getting more clear and specific, akin to the evidence between smoking and lung cancer. What is also clear is that the longer we wait, the more expensive and less effective will be our efforts to mitigate/adapt.

Scott Burkhart 4 years, 3 months ago

Ken, is it possible that you have lost a certain amount of objectivity on the subject? I submit as proof all of the long defenses you offer in this thread. You must admit there is enough evidence to call into question a lot of claims made by well meaning scientists in this arena.

Ken Lassman 4 years, 3 months ago

Actually, Scott, the reason I am being so persistent in presenting the science behind the observations and projections is because I keep hoping folks like you, Greg, and others will engage in an actual discussion where you can reasonably explain just where all of this meticulously gathered data and modeling goes wrong. But unfortunately all I seem to get back are vague statements like you just posted: "you must admit there is enough evidence to call into question a lot of claims..." without any specifics. What evidence? Which claims? Time and time again, my clarifying questions to you go unanswered, even though so much rides on the veracity of these observations and projections. In the meantime, maybe other folks are learning about the real evidence that has been presented by the climatological community that in the mainstream media gets so little real coverage, I guess because they feel they can't show a graph or talk above the 3rd grade level (with apologies to some very smart 3rd graders!).

Like in my first comment to this column, there is a lot of unsettled science--we are far from knowing everything we need to know to completely understand the extremely complex, dynamics of what some folks have referred to as the biogeophysiology of our planet. If you noticed, I even excerpted that part of the IPCC report that says that when we are talking about Atlantic hurricane frequency and intensity, there is not a real consensus as to what will happen in the future! Does that mean that climate change is a hoax? Heck no! If your mechanic finds out that your radiator has lost nearly all of its fluid, she or he doesn't have to know whether there is a leak in your oil pan or whether the oxygen sensor is working right in order to figure out why your car is overheating and what to do about it, right? Many of the "unknowns" in understanding the climate system are like that: they are important details for an overall understanding of how things work and interact with each other, so they are worth figuring out, but we've located the main issue already and if we continue to ignore it, we're going to seize up the engine or crack the block, to go back to the auto metaphor. (continued in next comment)

Ken Lassman 4 years, 3 months ago

continued from previous comment) I go to the denialist websites as well, and occasionally find some topics where real education is provided--wattsupwiththat currently has an interesting explanation of the increased velocity of equatorial Pacific trade winds, for instance. They state that the increased trade winds has set up a positive feedback loop where the east-west temperature differential is increasing the trade winds, which increases the temperature differential, which increases the trade winds....But when they start making pot shots at the IPCC models, for instance, I find that more often than not, they are either exaggerating, not understanding or actually misleading in their conclusions. In the case of the Pacific trade winds, Realclimate and wunderground websites supplement the wattsupwiththat information with the observation that since there is a steady heating of both shallow and deep Pacific waters, that the cycle will limit itself, slowing the trade winds, resulting in ever larger El Nino events, resulting in ever hotter atmospheric temps.

So, Scott, you're always welcome to talk shop in this very important arena, but if you don't feel the need to do that, please state that your comments are just opinions that are not really based on the available understanding of the scientific community, or I will be compelled to point that out for you.

Scott Morgan 4 years, 3 months ago

Ken, I tossed a great deal of info on the table as an example of how idiotic this whole climate change goofiness is.

The problem is far too many people believe these silly studies. A good accountant and 2+2 = whatever you want. Follow da money, and in this case power. Speaking of ill gotten gains, I did read where Al Gore is warning Kansans another Dust Bowl is coming. If anybody believes anything this man has to say, then.........oh my. Even Tipper hit the road.

I will focus on just one point, Mexico. Focus of what is actually happening, not what is said. Magic tricks, talk is cheap. Cancun and hosting should be enough said. Mexico, my goodness going green, have you ever been anywhere in this country besides touristo places?

Ken Lassman 4 years, 3 months ago

The only problem with your shotgun approach is that you've just placed yourself in the same category as the conspiracists of any stripe. What distinguishes your comments from the folks who say that the rapacious oil barons are no better than drug war lords who fine tune our addictions in order to extract more money for their expensive habits? Have you ever heard of confirmation bias? Since you have decided that there's nothing to the whole climate issue, you can find plenty of "evidence" (all anecdotal, of course) to confirm your suspicions. This is easier than ever with all those internet "facts" at your fingertips. Having good, reliable information sources has always been important and having reliable sources for your information regarding climate change is no different.

Personally, I find that the National Academy of Sciences, the American Geophysical Union, the Royal Society, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and a handful of other internationally recognized empirically based organizations to have the required checks and balances, to have the solid peer review processes and enough transparency to be trusted as reliable information sources, and journals like Science, Nature and the AMS Journal. These groups have created a clearing for discussions to occur in as objective, transparent way as possible, and I invite you to join me there if you really are interested in getting beyond your preconceptions and really educate yourself.

And yes, I've been off the beaten path in Mexico and am amazed at what I've seen those folks doing there. When you don't have lots of safety nets and still have an intact community with long traditions, it's amazing what can be done. We could learn a lot from the folks I've hung out with there.

Beator 4 years, 3 months ago

I see the pro and con climate enthusiasts have their work cut out promoting their science.

A quarter of Americans surveyed could not correctly answer that the Earth revolves around the sun and not the other way around, according to a report out Friday from the National Science Foundation.


Unrelated to topic. Is this a survey problem or a public school problem? Will public school Common Core fix this?

Mark Rainey 4 years, 3 months ago

Follow the money? The profits of the top ten energy companies far exceeds that of Al gore, and many developing nations. The Kansas dust bowl ? Read a little about the Kansas water tables.

Scott Morgan 4 years, 3 months ago

Knew better than to jump into this, normally don't go in this direction. Much wrong with Bush II, I agree, but his slow cautious approach to Climate Change, then called Global Warming I did and do appreciate.

I wish we would slow down on pronouncements as in a few days ago from our top leader stating the drought in California is caused by Climate Change. Not could be, but is caused... Sadly if one really thinks about it, our leader could set down in another area of our huge nation and claim Climate Change caused the floods....

Translation of leaderspeak: "Ouch what just hit my head oh my the sky is...," the U.S.A. needs to change, big big big time, heck with going through government for the people by the people.

Sorry for the jump in thought, but just a few decades ago, ships full of munitions, oil, pollution, you name it were being sunk by the hour. Atomic bombs were being tested, cities burning, thousands of huge petro powered machines moving, good golly the mess. One of my favorite books on WW2 was called appropriately "A World On Fire." Yet in months to a few years everything cleaned up nicely.

In a nutshell I firmly believe some folks are in this dogfight for self indulging reasons. Climate Change: For profit, politics, One World Government from hard core to moderate, in the case of science, fame, and that old get um in a World War nationalism is in play.

Personally, I practice and encourage sound eco living. Love the idea of trains and street cars. Wish Larrytown had them. Love the idea of cheaper ways to heat and cool indoor environments. Despise pollution, any type. Saw horrid water pollution closeup as a youth. This made a huge impression on me. Paper mills dumping waste in the river I lived on made the Kaw seem like a Rocky Mountain stream.

But, to change an entire culture over something we really do don't know even exists, nope.

Ken Lassman 4 years, 3 months ago

Thanks for speaking thoughtfully on this topic, which too often veers into the arena of what I call deaf shouting matches, Scott. Trying to find the right context and pace of change for this incredibly complex topic is pretty tricky at best, and I'd agree that when you hear that Mr. Obama refers to the drought as proof of climate change. So I decided to actually see what Mr. Obama said in California, which I found a copy of here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GFrrJGTk1Bk Now I don't know whether he said something else somewhere else, but what he said here is actually very good: you can't pin an individual drought on changing climate; changing temperatures DO influence droughts in at least 3 different ways--a) rain falls in heavier downpours, resulting in more runoff and less retention; b) precipitation in the mountains comes down more as rain than snow compared to earlier times, resulting in rivers that dry up in the summer more quickly; c) soil and reservoirs dry out more quickly. All of this sounds pretty reasonable to me. Maybe it is the media that is placing those comments out of context or cherry picking them? Just a thought....

Regarding the "World on Fire" analogy, I'm glad you brought that up, because it provides a context for what we're talking about when we talk about global warming/climate change. When referring to warming, I'm talking about the ADDITION of heat above and beyond what it would take to keep the earth at a temperature equilibrium. Well, some scientists have calculated how much heat it would take to heat up the planet as much as it has been observed warming up, and to make a long story short, it is equivalent to setting off a Hiroshima bomb every 4 seconds. That's right: every 4 seconds. That means that the earth has warmed since 1998 to the equivalent of over 2 BILLION Hiroshima atomic bombs going off since then. Fortunately, 93 percent of the warming goes into the oceans, but we'll see if we're smarter than that frog sitting in a pot of water on the stove, no? For more on this, check it out here: http://4hiroshimas.com/#Science

Ken Lassman 4 years, 3 months ago

Also, Scott, I'd like to provide what I consider to be an eye opening graph:

This graph is based on our best understanding (and we've studied it A LOT) of what we know about the heating potential of carbon in the atmosphere and how long it takes for natural systems to reabsorb carbon out of the atmosphere. Based on this understanding, the 3 curves show how long it would take for us to have a good chance (67% or better) of removing enough carbon from the atmosphere in order to avoid a 2 degree celsius or more hike in global temperatures. The first green curve caps emissions at 32 Gigatonnes CO2 (a gigatonne is 1,102,311,310 tons) per year by 2011. Unfortunately, that year has come and gone, but if we had capped global emissions then, we would have had to cut our emissions 3.7%/year to have a decent chance in avoiding 2 degrees celsius increase in global temps.

The second blue line charts out if we cap our emissions at around 34GtCO2 by next year, 2015. In order to avoid the 2 degrees celsius warming, we would have to cut emissions after next year's peak 5.3% per year--really quite a bit.

The final red line charts out waiting until 2020 to reach peak CO2 emissions at around 36Gt/year. If we wait until then, then we are looking at having to cut 9% every year for the following 20 years, and then have zero CO2 emissions after 2040. This is clearly impossible, meaning that if we wait until 2020 to reach peak emissions, we are guaranteed more than 2 degrees warming, and this will be clearly catastrophic for our children's children, their grandchildren, etc.

So I can argue with some real conviction that the time for gradualism is in all likelihood going to take us down the path of a future that will not be nice for future generations at all. We are taking a gamble either way: I think that there is a good enough chance that the scientific community is correct that we should be taking the conversation away from the Fox News and Greenpeace arenas and getting a real handle on what is at stake here. The choice may already be made for us--serious consequences of significant climate change may be inevitable. But I am an optimist and think that we still have a chance to mitigate the worst effects if we get ourselves in gear, leave the issue of whether it is real and humans are part of the cause, and move on to the considerable challenges of what we can do to curb our emissions.

PS--this graph was made several years ago--guess what global emissions were in 2013? 36Gt. This graph underestimates the difficulties ahead.

Richard Heckler 4 years, 3 months ago

Now the earth has billions of people, billions of fossil fuel vehicles,millions upon millions of buildings, the military industrial complex ,tons of coal fired power plants and Fracking all of which produce Pollution = Global Warming = Climate Change. This is new stuff for planet earth.

But I might have a clue as to where Charles K gets his information. http://www.ucsusa.org/global_warming/solutions/fight-misinformation/

Richard Heckler 4 years, 3 months ago

  • Global warming is happening now. The planet's temperature is rising. The trend is clear and unmistakable.

Every one of the past 37 years has been warmer than the 20th century average. The 12 warmest years on record have all occurred since 1998. 2012 was the hottest year ever recorded for the contiguous United States.

Globally, the average surface temperature has increased more than one degree Fahrenheit since the late 1800s. Most of that increase has occurred over just the past three decades.

  • We are the cause. We are overloading our atmosphere with carbon dioxide, which traps heat and steadily drives up the planet’s temperature. Where does all this carbon come from? The fossil fuels we burn for energy — coal, natural gas, and oil — plus the loss of forests due to deforestation, especially in the tropics.

  • The scientific evidence is clear. Within the scientific community, there is no debate: An overwhelming majority of climate scientists agree that global warming is happening and that human activity is the primary cause.

This broad consensus — and the extensive scientific evidence that supports it — is often downplayed or distorted by a small but vocal minority of special interests that have a vested interest in delaying action on climate change.

  • We have a choice. We can act now to reduce our carbon emissions, slow the pace of global warming, and pass on a safer, healthier world to our children. Or we can choose to do nothing, continue pumping massive amounts of carbon into an already overloaded atmosphere, and suffer the increasingly costly consequences.

Union of Concerned Scientists believe the choice is clear.


Chris Golledge 4 years, 3 months ago

Depends on what you mean by settled.

We have known for 150 years that CO2 interferes with the transmission of radiative energy within the infrared spectrum the earth emits. We know that we have added more CO2 to the air. We know that more CO2 reduces the outflow of energy. We know that we are receiving pretty much the same amount of energy from the sun. We know that the amount of energy in the earth climate system is increasing.

So, unless you think there is a problem with the laws regarding the conservation of matter and energy, human activities are responsible for the 40% increase in atmospheric CO2, and the majority of the 0.8 C global warming we have seen in the last 150 years. The rest of the complexities are just waves on the incoming tide. The waves are interesting, but the tide is still coming in.

Regarding California, climate models predict the expansion of Hadley Cells, and this expansion has been observed. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Earth_Global_Circulation.jpg http://scholar.google.com/scholar?q=%22hadley+cell%22+expansion&btnG=&hl=en&as_sdt=0%2C5 And Hadley Cells strongly influence precipitation patterns.

California is drier in the south than the north. http://www.wrcc.dri.edu/pcpn/ca.gif

So, as the drier region expands to the north, you would expect drought in the boundary regions between the very dry and the not so dry. And that is pretty much what we are currently seeing. http://blog.sfgate.com/stew/wp-content/blogs.dir/2290/files/2014/01/drought-monitor-map.jpg

Charles is projecting (it's a psych term) his own lack of understanding onto the climate scientists.

Bob Smith 4 years, 2 months ago

In tomorrow's news today, the pope of AGW creates an Inquisition to root out heretics. Thousands of true believers rush to burn the guilty in solar-powered ovens.

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