Global Warming: Man or Myth?

Scientists can also wear their citizen hats

Facts Cannot Slow Down the Runaway Climate Confusion Train

with 11 comments

Saturday night I sent the Tweet you see below because, once again, there are people who are criticizing Dr. Michael Mann’s “hockey stick” research that shows today’s climate is warmer than at any time in the past 2000 years. The latest attempt to discredit Mann’s work comes from Dr. Judith Curry’s post titled Fraudulent(?) hockey stick where she writes “accusations of data cherry picking and flawed statistical analyses and interpretations seem to be justified.Dr. Curry and others should know that the hockey stick curve shows up in other research even when using different types of data and different types of data analyses. (I blogged about this in 2010 with Shooting the Messenger with Blanks.)

Twitter cap 3

Enter Paul Clark (@cbfool). His three main points were:

  1. Hockey sticks are based on tree rings and tree rings are unreliable
  2. Ice core data from Greenland shows the past was much warmer than today
  3. Greenland in the 1200s was more conducive to agriculture than today so it must have been warmer than today

As you see from the exchange, I responded to each of these incorrect points using factual information.

  1. Tree rings are just one way to reconstruct past climate. Many researchers have used different “proxy” data and different analysis techniques and yet they still end up with a hockey stick. The Pages 2k (2013) and Marcott et al. (2013) are the most recent reconstructions and there is, once again, a prominent hockey stick.



  2. The Greenland ice core data that Paul Clark assumed supported his position, instead rebutted him. The “present” time on his image is NOT the year 2000. The x-axis has been altered to fool him and others. Dr. Don Easterbrook was caught red-handed doctoring this graph and refused to change it when he was called out. (See my blog post Don Easterbrook’s Academic Dishonesty for more information.) Instead, the REAL end point on Paul Clark’s plot is the year 1855! When one plots much more recent Greenland temperatures it is crystal clear that Greenland today is much warmer than at any time in the past 10,000 years.

    Greenland Ice Core T Data

    Greenland Ice Core T Data

  3. Paul’s final claim that Greenland supported agriculture is also a bit of a stretch. Here is what was really going on in Greenland back then in the so-called warmer period:

In 960, Thorvald Asvaldsson of Jaederen in Norway killed a man. He was forced to leave the country so he moved to northern Iceland. He had a ten year old son named Eric, later to be called Eric Röde, or Eric the Red. Eric too had a violent streak and in 982 he killed two men. Eric the Red was banished from Iceland for three years so he sailed west to find a land that Icelanders had discovered years before but knew little about. Eric searched the coast of this land and found the most hospitable area, a deep fiord on the southwestern coast. Warmer Atlantic currents met the island there and conditions were not much different than those in Iceland (trees and grasses.) He called this new land “Greenland” because he “believed more people would go thither if the country had a beautiful name,” according to one of the Icelandic chronicles (Hermann, 1954) although Greenland, as a whole, could not be considered “green.” Additionally, the land was not very good for farming. Nevertheless, Eric was able to draw thousands to the three areas shown in Fig. 15.

The Greenland Vikings lived mostly on dairy produce and meat, primarily from cows. The vegetable diet of Greenlanders included berries, edible grasses, and seaweed, but these were inadequate even during the best harvests. During the MWP, Greenland’s climate was so cold that cattle breeding and dairy farming could only be carried on in the sheltered fiords. The growing season in Greenland even then was very short. Frost typically occurred in August and the fiords froze in October. Before the year 1300, ships regularly sailed from Norway and other European countries to Greenland bringing with them timber, iron, corn, salt, and other needed items. Trade was by barter. Greenlanders offered butter, cheese, wool, and their frieze cloths, which were greatly sought after in Europe, as well as white and blue fox furs, polar bear skins, walrus and narwhal tusks, and walrus skins. In fact, two Greenland items in particular were prized by Europeans: white bears and the white falcon. These items were given as royal gifts. For instance, the King of Norway-Denmark sent a number of Greenland falcons as a gift to the King of Portugal, and received in return the gift of a cargo of wine (Stefansson, 1966.) Because of the shortage of adequate vegetables and cereal grains, and a shortage of timber to make ships, the trade link to Iceland and Europe was vital (Hermann, 1954.)

So here is what I think about the Twitter exchange:

Paul Clark has not really dug deeply into the science but he can locate pieces of information that support his incorrect view that somehow the settled science of human-caused warming is bogus. He is a victim of confirmation bias. Perhaps he thinks that our entire understanding of climate change science rests on the hockey stick. Of course, that is nonsense. The laws of physics show us that the planet must warm when we dump billions and billions of tons of heat-trapping CO2 into the atmosphere every year. The image below shows how CO2 levels today and possibly by end of this century are “off the chart” when compared to the previous 800,000 years. (And, yes, Paul, this data comes from your most trusted source: ice core data)

C)2 levels during past 800,000 years

CO2 levels during past 800,000 years

I am guessing that Paul Clark, like others who are called skeptics or deniers, does not like the message so he attacks the messenger. Perhaps he sees the solutions to climate change as meaning more government regulation, or higher taxes, or a weakening economy. He would certainly be standing on more solid ground if he shifted the “debate” away from the cause of warming (humans) and on to the solutions. If I am guessing correctly, Paul Clark and others do not understand that delaying action to address climate change undermines their belief in free market solutions and smaller government. The longer we wait to act, the worse things will get and the more likely we will have big government stepping in with costly measures. Research shows that inaction costs more in the long run than action now.

Approximate costs of climate action (green) and inaction (red) in 2100 and 2200. Sources: German Institute for Economic Research and Watkiss et al. 2005

Approximate costs of climate action (green) and inaction (red) in 2100 and 2200. Sources: German Institute for Economic Research and Watkiss et al. 2005

Paul, it is not just scientists who are concerned. Military and intelligence experts warn that climate-induced crises could topple governments, feed terrorist movements or destabilize entire regions. Health officials warn us that climate change could be the biggest global health threat of the 21st century. Climate change was recently listed as the greatest strategic risk currently facing the property/casualty insurance industry. I think you can agree that these groups are not leftist tree-hugging liberals. 🙂

We need to reduce our emissions of carbon for the sake of our public health, national security, and economic competitiveness. Surely it is foolish to base our economic energy needs on sources that are dwindling in supply and increasing in price when, instead, we could move toward energy efficiency and cheaper-by-the-year, infinite sources such as the sun and wind. If we stay addicted to fossil fuels and do not begin investing in those technologies now, we will be buying them from China in the future instead of selling it to them.

Paul and others, stop attacking the hockey stick. Argue about the various solutions. Climate change is happening now and is going to get worse if we keep delaying. If you do not sit at the “table of solutions” because you deny the problem, guess whose voice will not be heard?

*** The Twitter exchange likely failed because the approach I was using is based on the information deficit model, i.e. more information can convince a skeptic. This blog post ends with an attempt to connect to Paul and others by trying to demonstrate that groups they trust and respect (military, insurance, health) agree with my position and not Paul’s and that it makes fiscal sense to act now. We all want our voices heard and our values supported. In the climate change discussion, people like Paul are not being heard because he and others are taking such a fringe position on the science. Paul and others would do well to shift their Twitter exchanges to messages of policy and not science.

Written by Scott Mandia

September 15, 2014 at 7:03 am

11 Responses

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  1. I looked at Mann’s work and I agree that he made a massive mistake.

    That mistake is so obvious that any decent scientist who understands what they are talking about would readily admit that mistake.

    And in decent high standard science, yes, researchers make mistakes, but the difference is that they admit them, perhaps apologising and then everyone moves on knowing that the standards in that subject are high.

    But not in this cess pit of poor quality non-science.

    Mandia: Consider the odds that various international scientists using quite different data and quite different data analysis techniques can all be wrong in the same way. What are the odds that a hockey stick is always the shape of the wrong answer? The hockey stick shape is intrinsic to the data. You are barking up the wrong tree ring. 🙂

    Scottish Sceptic

    September 15, 2014 at 8:34 am

    • This would be the same Scottisch Sceptic who can’t see the error in Salby’s work…


      September 19, 2014 at 11:09 am

  2. Last night I had a similar twitter exchange with ‘Steven DiMartino ‏@nynjpaweather’, who had tweeted that an NSIDC Arctic ice extent graph ‘conveniently’ only began in 1979. I pointed out that that’s when the satellite record began. He then asked me “did I know what AMO/PDO was”, and I replied by saying, of course, but if he had a problem with the graph could he link me to his paper (which he’d claimed to have written) explaining his problem with it. He responded he wouldn’t until I provided “a basic definition of the AMO/PDO”. I ended up telling him we’d reached stalemate. By that point I’d guessed that his denial meme was going to be that ‘the Arctic ice melt was as a result of natural causes; ie oscillations’.

    The convoluted reasoning of these people is highly irritating. I wish I could just leave them to their conspiracy theories but so much is riding on these fake sceptics being stopped from spreading FUD that it’s not an option.


    September 15, 2014 at 9:01 am

  3. “The laws of physics show us that the planet must warm when we dump billions and billions of tons of heat-trapping CO2 into the atmosphere every year”
    I agree
    What I am trying to wrap my head around is why Climate Scientists do not use the Physics Proof (climate is because energy flow from the sun interacting with the gases in the atmosphere, hence delta(co2) swifts dynamic equilibrium point that alters the energy balance accounting of the planet. Law Conservation of Energy and therefore #ClimateChange is true cause LCofEergy can not be violated)
    If Physics produces a straightforward theoretical proof ala mathematical theorems that gives no space for doubts that planet will warm. Then why the whole palooza ? why open the doors to people that wants/liks the doubts

    Julio Nieves

    September 15, 2014 at 10:23 am

    • Julio,

      You can hand-wave away the physics proof with two objections:
      1) “The real world is complicated”, and
      2) Catastrophic AGW depends on water vapor feedbacks which have not been observed.

      Not that I agree with these, but they’re the standard counterarguments.

      I think the “physics proof” is pretty damn important, yeah, but I also agree with the skeptics, that it is necessary to show that there are not countervailing effects to the basic physics, particularly in a complex system like climate. We can never completely demonstrate the non-existence of such effects – after all, you can’t prove a universal negative – but climate scientists have looked long and hard, and they’ve found few such effects. That’s good enough for me.


      September 15, 2014 at 12:17 pm

      • 1) My tweets exactly. So you will NEVER reach a final conclusion by the current approach. There will be always a little BUT that Deniers will exploit. However I know that by stating everything in terms of Energy a final conclusion can be reached // More CO2 means Annual Energy Balance swifted therefore Annual Global temp average going up. That is NOT complicated
        2) CAGW depends on the Atmosphere heating up enough. Not matter of IF but WHEN.// CO2 means more energy stored into system. Unless you can find a negative feedback, the planet heats up, and that is what matters
        So one side can not categorically prove CAGW-WHEN and the other side can not categorically disprove CAGW-WHEN it either (by Physics only). Sounds like I will keep smoking because doctors disagree if I will die on 2030 or 2033. duh??
        non-existence of such effects: ehh not so sure. Physics does not offer an unlimited list of effects to pump out the energy capture by excess CO@, not of that magnitude. Only know one on record I would say was the one of Snowball Earth and that aint happening for sure. So what Deniers have? Just a pale “maybe there is”. I may win the Lottery tomorrow, but that is not a decent approach to life!

        Julio Nieves

        September 15, 2014 at 11:32 pm

  4. […] There have been numerous millenial temperature reconstructions using a variety of different proxies and a variety of different techniques. They almost all produce a hockey stick-like shape and indicate that temperatures today are probably higher than they’ve been for more than a thousand years and the rate at which it has risen is faster than for more than a thousand years. You can read more here. […]

  5. Read your title, and reflect on what it really means. It clearly means that 1) you feel that Facts are not important or meaningful, and 2) The Climate Confusion Train is a runaway, and confusion will continue to be unstoppable by those trying to clear up the confusion.


    September 17, 2014 at 9:43 pm

  6. There really is no confusion unless the results of the experiment cannot be accepted. The resulta are of comparing IPCC CO2 driven climate model predictions with the real climate. The results are negative. It fails. True science accepts negative results and strives to refine or replace the model. In this case, it means discarding the theory that CO2 drives Climate over everything else. So, then the model has to be revised to demonstrate just how much CO2 DOES affect climate. The Climate has gone into a negative temperature trend, while CO2 concentrations accelerate, clearly indicating that a CO2 driven temperature runaway is impossible. Yes, this is negative feedback, but it is reality.


    September 17, 2014 at 10:12 pm

  7. The focus on CO2 is totally myopic. It has no overriding direct relationship to the Earth’s climate. However, it does have an effect on Tree Rings. Doubling CO2 can double growth rates. Has this been filtered out?


    September 17, 2014 at 10:23 pm

  8. Regarding the charts and graphs, please include data up to the present. Stopping in the year 1998, 2000, 2008, or even 2012 excludes the last two years of data that dramatically contradicts the trend and cuts off any reasonable extrapolation.


    September 17, 2014 at 10:26 pm

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