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Climate Change: How Much Time Do We Have?


The other day, I found myself sitting in a Sunday school room talking about climate change. Mostly, I’m pretty comfortable doing that—despite a rather informal background in science, I’ve spent a good chunk of the last decade educating myself on the topic. But this question surprised me.

“How much time do we have?”

It wasn’t really the question itself, which was logical enough. It was my own emotional reaction. The folks awaiting an answer were my friends, and there was something in their eyes that both spoke of hope and of fear. They cared deeply about the answer. They were ready to work on the issue of climate change, and they wanted a reasonable number to work with. I so wished that I could have said twenty years, or even ten.

I suppose technically, I could have; no-one specified what exactly the time was needed to accomplish, so I could have picked some goal attainable within twenty years, or ten, and spoken from there. But I’d have been lying, or at least equivocating. So I said, “None, really. We are late, and we just need to work not to get any later.” And my heart broke, just a little.

Why do I believe that to be the least misleading thing I could possibly said to such a very open question?

Hurricane Katrina at its peak, before making landfall on the Gulf coast.

Hurricane Katrina at its peak, before making landfall on the Gulf coast.

Because it’s already too late for the victims of climate change to date.

It’s too late for the 2,000 or so who died in Katrina—and they may have been victims of climate change, as well as victims of mismanagement of the levees and the Louisiana wetlands and FEMA. It’s too late for the 70,000 who died in the 2003 European heatwave—and climate change almost certainly contributed to that disaster. It’s too late for the 56,000 who died during the Russian heatwave and wildfire event of 2010.

It’s impossible to say with any certainty that all of these victims died as a result of climate change. What’s called “attribution” of single events to climate change is difficult. But we do know that these sorts of events are much more likely in a warming world. And we do know that we live in a warming world.

My guess is that, allowing for many other events (up to and including the deadly Asian heatwave hurting Japan, Korea and China as of this writing) as well as the three examples already mentioned, it is very possible that as many as 100,000 people have so far died prematurely due to climate change. Many others have been impoverished or displaced, and economic losses—again, my best guess, not scientific estimate—are probably well in excess of $100 billion US.

Again—that is not a scientific estimate. It’s a personal and very rough one. But scientific analysis has specifically shown that the odds of the 2003 and 2010 events are much higher due to climate change than they would have been. It’s hard to say just how many deaths and how much damage are due to climate change. But it’s quite likely a significant number of each.

Munich re, a German insurance giant, produced this graph of rising disaster trends.  Note that, although the graph quite properly disclaims certain attribution to climate change, only climate-related disaster classes are rising.

Munich re, a German insurance giant, produced this graph of rising disaster trends. Note that, although the graph quite properly disclaims certain attribution to climate change, only climate-related disaster classes are rising.

Update 1/11/14: Inuit Mental Health Impact

Because climate change is insidious.

Like lung cancer, or heart disease, the damage being done by climate change is not obvious at first, and may already be mortal by the time it really becomes evident.

Consider this scenario: it is dinner time, and you decide have some soup. You put your pan of soup on the stove and turn on the heating element. But then phone rings and the conversation quickly engrosses you. You don't hear the sound of the pan boiling over, but you do soon smell burning soup...

After duly considering the possibility, science now tells us that there is little or no chance that a runaway greenhouse effect can cause our oceans to boil. But just as the heat from the stove takes time to warm the soup to the boiling point, the greenhouse effect takes time to warm the oceans—decades, in fact.

Because of that delay, it is difficult for us to appreciate the damage we have already done. We see a small change without understanding that we have already made a considerably larger change unavoidable. In that sense, it is always ‘later than we think.’

Miami Beach flooding.  Photo courtesy City of Miami Beach.

Miami Beach flooding. Photo courtesy City of Miami Beach.

Selected from Strauss PNAS commentary.  Upper line show 'business as usual' scenario; inundation points for large American cities are shown.  Lower line shows the scenario for aggressive emission cuts; only Miami becomes committed to inundation.

Selected from Strauss PNAS commentary. Upper line show 'business as usual' scenario; inundation points for large American cities are shown. Lower line shows the scenario for aggressive emission cuts; only Miami becomes committed to inundation.

A dramatic example comes from the work of Benjamin Strauss. According to his commentary article in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, evidence suggests that “we have already committed to an additional 1.3 m[eters] [about 4 feet, 3 inches] of rise above the current sea level.” If one uses a standard of 25% of municipal area below the high tide line, then approximately “500 American towns and cities are already committed, now home to 6.0 million...” Miami is expected to join that list within 10 years or so, unless extremely drastic reductions occur.

So if Strauss is correct, it is too late to save several hundred American towns from eventual inundation, and nearly too late to save Miami—even though that inundation will take much longer to actually happen. Those towns will be ‘walking dead.’

Because global emissions still seem to be increasing.

Consider the following graph of global carbon dioxide emissions:


Despite irregularities, the overall slope of the curve is increasing. It’s not surprising that this should be so. Political and economic factors have favored such an outcome. The very rapid economic growth in developing nations during the last couple of decades has been notable—and built on the exploitation of cheap fossil fuel.

Then too, although the Kyoto accord to control emission has had some successes—a number of nations, mostly European ones, will meet their Kyoto emissions reductions targets—Kyoto was never adequate to the scale of the climate challenge humanity faces. Developing nations were excluded, the US—then the world’s largest emitter—never ratified it, and several nations, including Canada and Russia, have now withdrawn from it, either formally or in practice. Worse, it will soon expire, and progress toward a successor agreement has been desperately slow—no such agreement is anticipated to be in place before 2020.

In the meantime, advances in the technology for extracting oil and gas (including the now-famous “fracking” techniques) expand the practical reserves of fossil fuels and lower prices. This, of course, provides economic incentive to burn yet more oil and gas. Ironically, climate change itself threatens to open up new reserves in the Arctic Ocean—reserves already subject to greedy anticipation. This, too, would drive the emissions curve higher still.

US Coast Guard helicopter rescuing Shell Oil personnel from the Arctic drilling rig Kulluk.  Image courtesy youtube.

US Coast Guard helicopter rescuing Shell Oil personnel from the Arctic drilling rig Kulluk. Image courtesy youtube.

But I didn’t mention the straight lines in the graph, and they are worth considering as well. They represent different ‘emissions scenarios’ used by the International Panel on Climate Change. Warming will depend in large part on us—how much carbon humans allow to enter the atmosphere. Different social choices mean different warming. Each emissions scenario assumes a certain type of social development generating a characteristic ‘trajectory’ of carbon emissions.

We needn’t go into all of them here. But note the green line on the graph, labeled “B2.” It’s the most ‘ecologically friendly’ scenario—but by 2010, the world was already emitting two billion tonnes more than that. In fact, we are not very far below the emissions projected for A1F1—essentially, the ‘worst-case’ scenario.

In terms of reducing our emissions, it is very late indeed.

Emissions 'wedges', from a plan to reduce California's GHG emissions to mandated levels.

Emissions 'wedges', from a plan to reduce California's GHG emissions to mandated levels.

Because we are running out of time to avoid what is generally considered ‘dangerous’ warming.

The international community has set an ‘aspirational target’—which seems to mean something like ‘the target we’d like to adopt, but can’t because it is too expensive economically or politically’—to limit warming to less than 2 degrees Celsius. It’s not truly a ‘threshold.’ As we’ve seen, it’s quite possible that significant damage has already occurred, and it’s nearly certain that we are committed to more. And it’s very likely that damage wrought by warming will increase as we approach the so-called ‘buffer.’

But one might consider 2 C as ‘sort of safe.’ Under that amount of warming, we will still expect to see some benefits to climate change: some areas will have more favorable weather for agriculture and recreation or tourism, and so one. Past that, the more climate ‘losers’ there will be, and the more critical will be the limits that are approached—limits to the heat tolerance of food crops like wheat, rice and corn, and to the heat tolerance of wildlife—and humans.

But the practical measures so far undertaken, or committed to, are not even close to adequate to meet the ‘aspirational target’ of 2 C. And the more we delay, the more daunting the necessary steps become.

Dr. Richard Somerville.  Image courtesy ESRL.

Dr. Richard Somerville. Image courtesy ESRL.

Distinguished Professor Emeritus Dr. Richard Somerville (of Scripps Institute) writes:

To have a reasonable chance of meeting this 2 degree Celsius goal, the science shows that global emissions of heat-trapping gases and particles must peak soon and then start to decline rapidly, not in 50 or 100 years, but within the next 5 to 10 years, reaching near zero well within this century. Given the 2 degree Celsius goal already agreed to by many governments, the case for great urgency in taking meaningful actions to reduce emissions is a consequence of science. It is based on facts and evidence. It is not an ideological or political choice. We have a window of time within which we simply must act if we are serious about meeting the 2 degree Celsius goal. The window is still open, but it will soon close and will then remain closed.

If the world continues to procrastinate throughout the current decade, so that global emissions of heat-trapping gases and particles continue unabated for another ten years, then we will almost certainly have lost the opportunity to limit warming to 2 degrees Celsius.

One could perhaps call this ‘encouraging’ with less of an ironic edge, if one were speaking, not about our own lives, but of those of the next generations. For there is still time to have very large impacts upon their lives.

While the warming to be experienced by 2050 is largely ‘locked in’ as a result of emissions to date, that is not the case for the warming seen by 2100. Several studies demonstrate this.

For example, the IEA—International Energy Agency—has developed its own emissions scenarios, and used them to investigate the chances of exceeding the 2 C ‘buffer’ value. The scenarios all show from 1.5 to 2.5 degrees C warming in 2050—a difference that is significant, but less than dramatic. The story is quite different for 2100, however: the most harmful scenario shows roughly 5C, while the most benign has not shown significant warming from the 2050 value, near 1.5 C. This is graphed below:


The US Global Change Research Program had already reached a broadly similar conclusion in an earlier study:


Going back to 2002, a British team, Johns et al, also came up with a very similar result. This uses older emissions scenarios, and an earlier generation climate model to do the necessary calculations, but still shows a range of about a degree for 2050, but a range of over 3.5 degrees for 2100. (Note that the flat trajectory at the bottom (shown in blue) represents a control run, with greenhouse forcings held to 19th century levels.)


What's 8 C?

Consider the following mean maximum temperatures:

  • Miami mean annual high: 28.7 C; Toronto mean annual high: 11.9 C
  • Miami mean August high: 32 C; Toronto mean August high: 25 C
  • Miami mean January high: 24 C; Toronto mean January high: -1 C

(Source: weather.sg.msn.com)

So, 8 C is:

  • greater than the variance among Miami’s monthly mean highs;
  • greater than the difference between Miami and Toronto August mean highs;
  • greater than half the difference between Miami and Toronto annual mean highs;
  • nearly a third of the difference between Miami and Toronto January mean highs.

(An 8 C difference in Toronto’s January mean high would make Toronto warmer during that month than Lexington, KY, which currently experiences a January mean of 5 C.)

Considering these results together, it will be difficult to be sure of avoiding 2 C by century’s end. That's the bad news.

But it would be very possible to limit warming to amounts not much greater than that. There would be an enormous difference between 2 C and—to take a worst-case number for a moment—8 C. And that is definitely good news.

(To consider some illustrations of what 8 C might mean in a North American context, see the sidebar to the right.)

The bottom line is that climatic fate is of today’s adults is more or less sealed. Whether we continue down our present course or make a rapid change to a more sustainable energy economy, the full effects won’t be felt for another few decades. But by 2050 most of us will be at, approaching, or even past, what we would today consider to be our expected lifespans. So we will see climatic conditions that I would characterize as ranging from 'moderately bad' to 'significantly worse.'

But our kids and grandkids may well be living in 2080, or 2100. For them, our choices will make the difference between the 'challenging' conditions that we may experience if we survive to 2050, and the horrific conditions of a 2100 world that is 8 C warmer.

Child on a Thai beach.  Image courtesy Wikimedia Commons.

Child on a Thai beach. Image courtesy Wikimedia Commons.

For that purpose, we have time. It remains to be seen whether we have the wisdom, and the will.

Update: 2/3/2014

Just as the Working Group I portion of the International Panel on Climate Change Fifth Assessment Report was leaked prior to release of its finalized draft, so, too, has that of Working Group II. (WG I was concerned with 'the physical basis'--the core science at the heart of human-induced climate change. WG II is tasked with summarizing for us the the associated "impacts, vulnerabilities and adaptation"--the more practical questions of climate change harms and the ways of lessening them.)

The leaked WG II draft provides another answer to the question of how much time we have:

Delaying mitigation through 2030 will increase the challenges of, and reduce the options for, bringing atmospheric concentration levels to 530 ppm or lower by the end of the century...

530 parts per million would certainly take the planet well past the two Celsius degrees of warming that are (somewhat optimistically) considered relatively safe. Further warming would be increasingly likely to 'take on a life of its own' by triggering climate 'feedbacks' such as releases of carbon from sources such as warmer seawater, melting permafrost, or dying vegetation. On the other hand,

If in 2100 the atmospheric carbon dioxide levels are between 430 and 480 parts per million, the global temperature change, as compared to the mid-1800s, will be likely to stay below 2 degrees Celsius, according to a chart in the report.

For context, as of writing the most recent observations released from the Scripps CO2 Observatory in Hawaii reported CO2 readings of 398 parts per million. (January 29, 2014.)

But a New York Times story reporting the leak puts matters in still clearer terms than CNN:

Nations have so dragged their feet in battling climate change that the situation has grown critical and the risk of severe economic disruption is rising, according to a draft United Nations report. Another 15 years of failure to limit carbon emissions could make the problem virtually impossible to solve with current technologies, experts found.

A delay would most likely force future generations to develop the ability to suck greenhouse gases out of the atmosphere and store them underground to preserve the livability of the planet, the report found. But it is not clear whether such technologies will ever exist at the necessary scale, and even if they do, the approach would probably be wildly expensive compared with taking steps now to slow emissions.

The report said that governments of the world were still spending far more money to subsidize fossil fuels than to accelerate the shift to cleaner energy, thus encouraging continued investment in projects like coal-burning power plants that pose a long-term climate risk.

This content reflects the personal opinions of the author. It is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and should not be substituted for impartial fact or advice in legal, political, or personal matters.


Doc Snow (author) from Camden, South Carolina on October 29, 2015:

Thanks for asking, jack--I'm beavering away at it as I have time. I've been pretty time-crunched and stupid things keep coming up and interfering (today it was appliance repair, among other things.) Annoying… but I'll get there.

Jack Lee from Yorktown NY on October 29, 2015:

doc snow - Just checking how you are coming along on our challenge?

I look forward to your posting.

Jack Lee from Yorktown NY on September 30, 2015:

Doc Snow - I published my hub and it is now featured.

Here is the link -


I realized I am a bit early. We agreed on 1 month period but I completed my other commitment ahead of schedule. Please take your time, and I await to be convinced.

Take care.

Doc Snow (author) from Camden, South Carolina on September 30, 2015:

Thanks, jack! You're ahead of me; I've been slammed with a new work project, so I've got nothing other than a notation on the calendar to touch base with you a couple of weeks hence. Congrats on the work. I'm sure I'll find some things to disagree with, but I still think it'd be pretty cool if we made some history here, as you suggest we may be doing!

I did bookmark a video lecture by UK energy expert Kevin Anderson, who presents a strong case that we are nearly too late now to avoid a 2 C warming--not in theoretical terms, but in practical ones. He sees a tacit 'conspiracy of silence' to *understate* how dire the situation really is--over-simplifying things a bit, he says that scientists don't like to focus on the worst case any more than the rest of us, and politicians and technocrats who are concerned about climate change just won't hear the worst case when scientists *do* try to present it, because they know that it can't be 'sold' publicly and fear that acknowledging it might undercut the will to act.

It's here, for any interested readers. But note it's not very cheery:


Jack Lee from Yorktown NY on September 30, 2015:

doc snow, Just a heads up. I have been working on our challenge hub. It is almost finished. I will publish it shortly. Once you completed your hub, I will add the link to it. You can do the same. I wrote a brief introduction. I don't know if we are making history here... I'm not aware of any other hubbers doing a competing article on the same topic. Good luck.

Jack Lee from Yorktown NY on September 17, 2015:

johnnycomelately, I have my personal believe but it does not preclude me to accept evidence that is clear. Science is also not infallible as history have shown us again and again. As an engineer, I examine all sides and make the determination accordingly. However, unlike some secular scientists, who refuse to acknowledge any "super natural" influence in our natural world, I am. Who is more open minded?

This may seem contrary to you but some scientists have determined an "intelligence" behind many of the things we find in nature. The more they peel the onion, the more they are convinced that it did not come about by accident. When have you heard about that?

Doc Snow (author) from Camden, South Carolina on September 17, 2015:

"Even the climate scientists admit that even if we do what they propose, it would have little effect on reducing global temperature (fraction of a degree)."

No. I'm sorry, but that is simply incorrect. According to the most recent Assessment Report ("AR5", which came out last year), the emissions trajectory we choose will effect a temperature 'swing' of as much as 5 degrees Celsius at the end of the century. (And 5 degrees difference in the mean global temperature is huge, amounting to probably close to 10 C over land areas.)

You may choose to 'disbelieve' that finding, but that is in fact what the climate science community says. See the top panel in the linked graphic; "RCP 8.5" is basically business as usual, "RCP 2.6" is aggressive mitigation:


"It is arrogant of Man to believe we can control our destiny…. We can clean the air and water but we can't control the Sun or the asteroids or volcanos or earthquakes."

Correct. But nobody is proposing that we can control our destiny absolutely. The mainstream is proposing that we stop doing something that has a high probability of self-harm.

(Substitute 'individual drug use' for 'societal fossil fuel use' to get a feel for this; we all know that quitting smoking (or drinking, or heroin, or whatever) can't ensure a long, healthy life--but failing to quit can definitely raise the odds of a short, miserable one.)

jonnycomelately on September 17, 2015:

Jackclee, your statement "My personal believe is that..." is the main thing that worries me.

Doc Snow has been addressing the scientific findings and yet keeping his mind open to further developments. Granted there is a place for "what ifs," and "supposings," to further inquiry. This is the basis of growing in our knowledge. But when you bring in your beliefs in God, although that is your personal choice and respected, it is not fair to bring your beliefs in God into a scientific discussion.... in my opinion.

Years and years of detailed research, accumulating a huge amount of data, in sometimes extremely difficult circumstances, by dedicated and careful people, does not fit well with personal beliefs.

How can you keep an open mind to further information if you cannot pull yourself away from those beliefs? Just for a short time? I mean, you can always go back to those beliefs if you wish to, but they are bound to influence all of your opinions even in the face of scientific evidence. So how can we give credibility to your opinions if they are so heavily influenced?

Jack Lee from Yorktown NY on September 17, 2015:

Doc, I do mean what I say. Even the climate scientists admit that even if we do what they propose, it would have little effect on reducing global temperature (fraction of a degree). That to me is the elephant in the room. They just admitted that they can't effect nature. If you read some of my other hubs, you would know that I believe God has control over the Earth more than Man. It is the only explanation of how we come to being and how we exist despite of all the natural events...

It is arrogant of Man to believe we can control our destiny. We can't in absolute terms. We can clean the air and water but we can't control the Sun or the asteroids or volcanos or earthquakes.

I look forward to the hub challenge.

Doc Snow (author) from Camden, South Carolina on September 17, 2015:

I'm only going to say, jack, that your "in any case" is logically wrong. If the scientific mainstream is correct that we *are* driving the current warming, then it follows that mitigating our GHG emissions will also mitigate warming. (Though not necessarily with instant effect.)

Perhaps you meant, "If my view is correct..."?

Jack Lee from Yorktown NY on September 16, 2015:

johnnycomelately, you are correct in your assessment of my current thinking. I am a skeptic but I can be convinced if the evidence is indisputable that we are the cause.

My personal believe is that global warming or climate change is mostly a natural condition and humans have a small part in contributing to it. In any case, we can't do much to correct it or mitigate it, only to adapt as our ancestors have done for thousands of years.

When in the future, if our technology has advanced sufficiently to be able to control our planet, which I have doubt, then it would be a different scenario.

I have no problem with environmentalist who calls for cleaner air and water... that should not be tied to fossil fuel and carbon dioxide outputs which are different than pollution.

I am convinced that some scientists/environmetalists have ulterior motives in using climate change to bring about global economic re-distribution in the name of fairness...

Michael Crichton's "State of Fear" was a great introduction to this.

jonnycomelately on September 16, 2015:

Jack, such an exercise as Doc and you envisage would be a valuable one, and I am sure you will be open and conscientious about it.

I would be interested to know what your objective is here. It seems you are wanting to dispel the fears surrounding predicted global warming trends and catastrophic climate change. Is this a correct presumption?

What would you like to be the outcome if and when people become convinced there is nothing to worry about? Do you think we should all carry on as usual? Could there possibly be an advantage to acting now, and in the future, as if our activities (of the human species, that is) are in fact causing disastrous long-term potential climate changes?

You feel passionately that people are exaggerating the findings, perhaps for ulterior motives.

Have you ever questioned those feelings.

Doc Snow (author) from Camden, South Carolina on September 16, 2015:

I suppose I did miss your point (as well as the point of that site; it's a bit diffuse, if you ask me.) However, I'd disagree about at least some of the predictions, in that the site does make a reasonable effort to cite its sources, and some at least of them appear to have some weight (e.g., Science, the Max Planck Institute or the Center for a New American Security.) So I do think that at least some of those projections are based on 'something real.'

I suspect that a lot of the 'false projections' and 'exaggerations' are artifacts of out-of-context quotation by folks who, as you write, are trying "to influence public opinion." (Although I certainly see folks on both sides who engage in serious hyperbole; the 'alarmist' claiming we'll be extinct in as a species in 30 years is well-matched with the 'denialist' claiming that a modest carbon tax will return us to the Stone Age.)

OK, let's revisit this in a month or so. (I'm pretty rushed for time myself, with a probable new job coming online.) And "manageable" sounds good to me, if we can manage to keep it so. :-)

Jack Lee from Yorktown NY on September 16, 2015:

Doc, you missed my point about the far reaching projections of this site. The point is they are meant to scare and not based on anything real.

I will take up your challenge.

I was planning to do a hub on something related to this topic anyway.

I want to expose the false projections and exaggerations of some to influence public opinion.

Give me about a month since I have some other things on my plate.

I think this would be a productive exercise instead of verbal debates.

Let's just keep it manageable to a few best examples.

Doc Snow (author) from Camden, South Carolina on September 16, 2015:

Thanks. I'm not too interested in 2020 predictions, because if we wait til then to act decisively on CO2 mitigation, we are likely stuffed--readers, especially North American ones, may want to substitute another verb there.

But can you say more about just which predictions you have in mind, and what sort of evaluation you will perform? There are many, many predictions even for 2015, as can be seen here:


Surely, you don't mean that every single one has to turn out correct?

And surely, some of them aren't really central to climate, though they may be related to it. For instance, global air conditioner sales, predicted to hit 78.8 million this year, is not purely a climate change question; it's deeply entangled with global economic trends, too. FWIW, it's looking way too conservative as a prediction. See this piece, which seems to indicate that global sales hit that level by 2013:


How would you factor in such a question, and such an outcome?

And how about sea ice? We've just hit the seasonal minimum, more or less, and the sea ice (per JAXA data on extent) is the 3rd-lowest ever, at roughly 4.25 million square kilometers. (The record low is from 2012, when the JAXA seasonal low hit 3.17 on Sept. 16.) The 2015 page from the blog you discuss, as linked above, says "Arctic ocean could be mostly ice free by 2013 according to NASA scientists." But it also says "sea ice is melting faster than predicted by models created by international teams of scientists, such as the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. They had forecast the Arctic Ocean could be free of summer ice as early as 2050."

Does "could be" actually count as a prediction? Or even a projection? And when the IPCC says 2050--most modelers now seem to think that it will more likely be in the 2030s or 2040s--and a couple of individuals say "it could be 2013", who are we supposed to believe?

The bottom line still seems to be that the Arctic sea ice is going fast; the September trend is declining at more than 10% per decade:


So, how about this: you and I make a project. We'll sort the predictions for this year that we want to assess--other than what I've done here, no looking ahead! (Full disclosure: I already looked at the case of Lagos, Nigeria, a bit.) Then we'll research them and compare what we find. We each write a Hub about it.

What do you say?

Jack Lee from Yorktown NY on September 15, 2015:

Doc, I came across this web site recently and would like you to comment -


I will make a pledge to you.

You ask me what it would take to be convinced.

If the items in the forecast for 2015 and 2020 comes true as they projected, I will be convinced.

Notice they don't post any names on this site and they ask for donations.

There are no accountabilities with these claims.

The problem with these global warming alarmist is that they don't reconcile the facts with their forecasts. When it doesn't appear, they just make up some new stuff to explain the discrepancy.

I remain a skeptic...

Doc Snow (author) from Camden, South Carolina on September 11, 2015:

Jack, thank you for a clear answer. I appreciate it.

I don't think it's true that the projections have 'consistently' over-estimated temperature rise rates. I know that the 'ensemble'--that's a large number of runs by different models--has an envelope that easily includes the actual observed trend. Realclimate has done a number of posts on this over the years. The first is from 2009:


They revisited that in 2012:


The most recent such comparison was from June of this year--it's included in a post which also discusses the updates of the NOAA model. It includes the largest discrepancies of the three posts; for the period since 1998 you can see that the temps are below the model mean. (That's period of the so-called 'pause'--really a slowdown, not a pause, as the figure in the post clearly shows.) But temps are still within the confidence envelope of the model ensemble, with one exception: the 'old' NCDC (ie., NOAA) annual means for 2011 and 2012 are just below the lower bound of the CMIP 5 model ensemble (don't ask, I'm already going on too long!). It's proposed that that is because the volcanic and solar forcings used in those model runs were a bit 'cooler' than reality actually turned out to be:


I'm going to leave you with one more thought on models and observations. It's alleged with incredible frequency and persistence, by many folks who oppose the mainstream view, that models are basically abject failures--terms like 'rubbish' and 'joke' seem to be highly favored.

But I have to say, few of them seem to have looked at the history involved. There are quite a few successful model predictions 'in the bag', including some where it seemed for a time that observations of various things (upper tropospheric temperature trends, for one) were 'falsifying' the models, but it turned out that in fact the problems were with the observations. Here's a piece on that for your consideration:


Thanks for your comments. I feel a bit bad because you wanted me to 'revisit this in a few years,' not now--so it seems 'pushy' to revisit it instantly! But going back to your '3 options', I feel a strong need to purchase 'climate insurance.' I don't think that it can wait 'a few years.'

Last year was the warmest in the instrumental record; this year will almost certainly be warmer still (and will likely show pretty warm in the satellite data, too.) Model-observation comparisons for 2015 will probably *not* show the observations lagging. But if 2016 is a little bit cooler, as might well happen just on the basis of 'reversion to the mean', what will you conclude? (You needn't reply to that question, of course. But I intend it not as rhetoric, but as spur to a 'thought experiment.')

Jack Lee from Yorktown NY on September 10, 2015:

Doc, the one evidence I need is for the various climate models to agree with reality. There projections has consistently over estimated the temperature rise. I just don't trust them considering how the models have such variables which are based on assumptions and the small tweak can cause large changes in the model outputs. In a few short years, we will see if these models are for real or they are contrived. Please revisit this in a few years. Take care.

Doc Snow (author) from Camden, South Carolina on September 10, 2015:

Jack, there's little room for doubt that 'we are doing it'--not if you consider the whole picture. Again, since Revelle's 'great experiment' began, we've seen very sustained warming, and we've seen it where we should see it if it's due to greenhouse warming--that is, in the surface and lower troposphere, and especially in the Arctic--and not where we would see it if it were solar in origin--that is, not in the stratosphere, which has shown a persistent *cooling* trend.

You like the 'wait and see' approach. But just what would we be waiting for? What evidence would you need to see that you have not already seen over the last 6 decades?

I believe in the motto "first do no harm", too, but we are conspicuously failing to live by it as is--and not least when we use the atmosphere as a free dump for combustion by-products.

Jack Lee from Yorktown NY on September 10, 2015:

Doc, everything she describe can be true and we may have little to do with it. She even admits that we don't understand how all this interact. Our planet is not a greenhouse. There are many complex things going on that keep our planet in this "goldilocks" zone. Yes, we have some influence but in the grand scheme of things, very little. I believe in the motto "first do no harm". Have you seen what the EPA did lately in Colorado? Do you want these same people dictating climate change policies? I don't.

Doc Snow (author) from Camden, South Carolina on September 10, 2015:

I can't resist quoting directly one of the letters from the last link in the above comment. It's from the Danish climate researcher, Ruth Mottram.

"Dear Joe,

"You have asked me how I feel about climate change. It’s probably the first time I have ever been asked to say what I feel, rather than what I think and it’s a hard question to answer.

"In my day to day job I run simulations with a regional climate model of Greenland and the Arctic to see how glaciers, ice sheets and sea ice respond to greenhouse gas forcings. The processes and connections I am modelling and following are so familiar it is actually rather easy to bear witness to melting glaciers, rising sea level and vanishing sea ice with near complete detachment. Sometimes however, I am caught by surprise by a new result that at first appears counter-intuitive. Then I feel that beautiful complex mix of elation, surprise, bewilderment and satisfaction as another piece falls into place, that characterizes scientific understanding. It is endlessly fascinating watching how the planet reacts to a changing climate and we are learning so much about the earth system.

"Then I go home and what seem like very arcane models and far-off projections start to seem much more real. 2050 (the year Denmark aims to become carbon neutral) is no longer impossibly distant to imagine but my children will be only a little older than I am now. I have a glimpse of the possible environment they will likely experience and it is sobering. I feel a profound sadness that they will be dealing with a much degraded environment. They will be living with severe problems of our making, an acidifying ocean, reduced biodiversity, extreme weather events, rising sea levels and an Arctic environment that is very different from today. I have no idea how to start to talk to them about this.

"We live in a wealthy country that can (more or less) afford to adapt to climate change, but what of other nations? How will the rest of the world deal with these challenges? These are scary questions that I can’t answer. In spite of all this I do not feel depressed about the future. Humans are an amazingly adaptable and versatile species. We are at our best when we work together on our grand challenges. Let us hope so at any rate.

"So, what do I feel about climate change? Interest, intellectual curiosity, satisfaction, excitement, extreme worry, sadness, fear and perhaps a glimmer of hope...

"Yours sincerely

"Dr Ruth Mottram

Klimaforsker/Climate Scientist

Danish Meteorological Institute"

Doc Snow (author) from Camden, South Carolina on September 10, 2015:

No, I hadn't seen that, jonny, thanks! I wonder how those ideas have developed since 2007?

jack, I'm glad you feel blessed. We probably all ought to feel so; gratitude is merited more often than experienced, I'm afraid. And you are certainly not alone in believing in a 'teleological world'--one with a purpose.

However, there's a big difference between 'thinking we control everything' and 'recognizing what we can and do control', don't you agree? Think of Niebur's famous serenity prayer:

"God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,

The courage to change the things I can,

And the wisdom to know the difference."

What we're working on here is the wisdom to know the difference.

If you are concerned about the varying agendas of different scientists, perhaps you might like to look into what Dr. Katherine Hayhoe has to say. She is a climate scientist and evangelical Christian with a strong concern for climate change. Her 'agenda' is to be a good steward of the Earth and its creatures:



I think that you are confusing different things when you say that climate scientists "fly around the world in priivate jets and building mansions along the pacific coast." Al Gore does those things--or more exactly, is perceived to do those things:


(And in the interests of strict accuracy, that Pacific coast mansion was not built by Mr. Gore; he bought an existing building. It's often stated to be on the beach, but that's wrong, too; photos show it to be high on the hillside overlooking the ocean below.)

But the main thing is, Al Gore is not a climate scientist. Doesn't claim to be. He's a former politician, a wealthy businessman, and a climate activist. You can debate whether wealth and concern for the environment are really compatible or not, but that's quite different from the lifestyles of climate scientists. As a class they are far removed from the sphere Mr. Gore lives in--'upper middle class' would be the right characterization, I think.

As to 'whether they really believe', you may wish to consider these personal glimpses:



Jack Lee from Yorktown NY on September 10, 2015:

Doc, I feel not lucky, but blessed. I believe we are put on earth to be good stewards of our planet's resources including the animals and fossil fuels...they are here to help us and we need their resources to help us advance and progress as God intended. If you read some of my other hubs, I believe we are unique and life on earth is unique. To have the arrogance to think we can control everything is false and self defeating. Don't you agree that there are many things out of our control? Our civilization can be wiped out tomorrow from a large Astoroid or a major earthquake... I am an engineer by training. The more you study how things work around us, the more you realized that it fits together by design and not by random luck or evolution. I can't convince you of this but just google famous scientists down the ages and you will find many are believers in a supreme being. We are getting a bit off topic but you should understand where I'm coming from. I am not against science only people like climate scientists that are using science to achieve a different agenda. The key question to ask them is this- if they really believe in everything they are proposing, they would choose a different life style...not fly around the world in priivate jets and building mansions along the pacific coast.

jonnycomelately on September 10, 2015:

As a matter of interest, have you seen this article in Geo Scientist, by Jonathan Bujak, concerning arctic conditions 55 million years ago, when CO2 levels were possibly 3,500 ppm?


Doc Snow (author) from Camden, South Carolina on September 10, 2015:

jack, it's reasonable not to wish to 'waste' effort and money. However, we certainly *do* have available solutions for decarbonizing our energy economy. It's been demonstrated that we could meet all our energy needs with just renewable energy and efficiency measures (using that latter term in its broadest sense to include things like demand management):


But we don't have to; we can also use some nuclear power as it is politically and economically possible. If we are lucky, we may see new nuclear technologies come on line that will finally enable safer and cheaper nuclear power. If so, great. With today's technology (and politics), though, I think that nuclear can't scale up fast enough to really address the climate crisis. We simply can't build enough reactors fast enough; we don't have the money or skilled personnel. (That's why I don't agree with you that nuclear is 'the most efficient and viable' alternative. Nuclear fans seem to think that it's only political will that's lacking, but that appears to be an illusion.)

Which leads us to the next point: time frame. The mainstream science says that we have an allowable total carbon emissions budget of one trillion tons, if we wish to have a reasonable chance of avoiding a warming of 2 C or greater:


As you can see from the same poster, we blew through more than half of that by 2011, and global emissions are still increasing. We're projected to use it all up by 2046 or so. That sounds like a comfortingly distant prospect, but since you indicate in your comment that you have some appreciation of the difficulties involved in transforming the energy economy, perhaps we can let that illusion pass.

So let's lay the possibilities out in terms of your 3 choices.

1) We just wait and see. The upside is that we are comfortable now, and don't spend money we wouldn't spend anyway. The downside is that we will be committed to greater than 2 C warming if the mainstream science is correct. That, just to remind us all, is the (arbitrary) danger level, largely because there's good reason to think that with that amount of warming, vigorous climate feedbacks will be activated, committing us to greater additional warming--even if we stop emitting. See:


Essentially, 2 C might really mean 4C or worse.

2) We take mitigation seriously. The downside is that we need to spend significant amounts of money. This is real, but often exaggerated: the amount needed has been estimated to be perhaps 5% of GDP, which is a lot, but is not ruinous. And some of the spending wouldn't truly be additional--for example, aging energy infrastructure needs replacing anyway, and need not cost more to replace with 'clean' technology as opposed to 'dirty'. (In fact, it may sometimes cost *less*--new onshore wind capacity is now cheaper than building a new coal plant in most cases, and the cost differential is only going to tilt more in favor of wind over time.)

Of course, if it turns out that climate change is somehow not a problem, then it's 'money for nothing,' and it's largely wasted.

On the other hand, humanity does not run an existential risk, which we very well could under option #1: climate change could potentially drive us to extinction, or cause global civilizational collapse.

Yes, that sounds drastic. I can't help it; that's a potential outcome, extreme but not unrealistic, of the expected changes under worst case warming.

Which brings us to another point: according to the best information we have, it's not a matter of a 'fraction of a degree' as you state above, not if we're talking about conditions at the end of the century and beyond. After mid-century, choices we make over the next decade or so have a lot of 'leverage', and by 2100 the projected temperature swings that we could achieve by our mitigation policy choice amount to nearly 4 degrees C--see the graph labeled 'Figure 3' in the Hub above.

That's the difference between something like today's world, and an Earth that would be completely unrecognizable over much of its surface. Again, see the Lynas link for details.

My homeowners insurance is paid up, and would be even if the mortgage company didn't insist on it. I don't know about you, but personally I would extend that principle to the global warming issue.

3) After such lengthy replies, this point will come as a relief, I expect. But #3 isn't really choice, because we are going to have to adapt no matter what we choose. It's already too late for some things. For instance, summer Arctic sea ice may very well be on that list, which would mean drastically different summer and autumn weather across large swathes of the Northern hemisphere. Coastal communities will have to adapt or move. (Indeed, at least one is already doing just that.) Agriculture will have adapt to the relatively 'climatic' changes that result, and to cope with the weather.

Sea level rise is another one we're just going to have to adapt to. We can affect its magnitude, but there's no way we can stop it completely. The Navy is just going to have to move or modify a whole lot of port facilities, whether or not Congress is ready to admit that there is a problem. (Yes, that's an issue now in Norfolk, VA.) Millions will just have to move inland--and coastal homeowners will increasingly find that it's hard, or impossible, to sell. A whole lot of value is just going to be wiped out. But we'll adapt.

Thing is, the adaptation will be a lot harder under choice #1 than choice #2, if the mainstream science is correct. (And also 'early indications', like the ones just mentioned and more.)

Essentially, you can imagine this whole situation speaking to humanity in a Clint Eastwood voice: "Do you feel lucky, punk?"

Do you?

Doc Snow (author) from Camden, South Carolina on September 10, 2015:

(Tedious back and forth insults between jc and sb deleted; they don't add anything helpful to the thread.)

Jack Lee from Yorktown NY on September 09, 2015:

Doc, I do not want to spend resources to fix a problem we may not have a solution for. What if we are entering a mini ice phase as some scientist believe? Are you and other climate change believers willing to do what is necessary to reverse course? And increase co2? Some environmentalist wants to reduce fossil fuel and yet won't embrace nuclear power as an alternative. It is the most efficient and viable alternative to generate power. You have to wonder what is the motive and agenda. The way I see it, we have 3 options. We can do nothing and see what happens, we can spend lots of money and cause lots of inconveniences to maybe affect the temp. A fraction of degree or we can adapt the changing climate as we have done for thousand of years.

Doc Snow (author) from Camden, South Carolina on September 09, 2015:

"Who I work for?"

I seriously doubt it.

As to the Georgia Guide Stones, they are maybe an hour and a half drive. Haven't been by, though it would probably have some interest.

But if you're saying 'so long', then thanks for playing.

somethgblue from Shelbyville, Tennessee on September 09, 2015:

Well, 'they' have had thousands of years to perfect their agenda, I reckon even you might convince some folks of manmade Climate Change in that amount of time, just not me.

I know what you are and who you work for, so while its be fun chit chatting, if you really want to reach your client base throw out the techno-babble and try to dummy down the rhetoric just a bit.

After all an education system that bases most of their programs on antiquated theories , disinformation and outright lies hasn't exactly cranked out the geniuses.

Isn't the Georgia Guide Stones close to where you live? Things that make you go hmmm . . .

Doc Snow (author) from Camden, South Carolina on September 09, 2015:

Apparently "they" are supposed to be all-powerful. "They" own 'the' educational system, as well as 'science' and, well, who really knows what else? "They" can admit things so adroitly that it will be known that 'they' did, but just not to 'the public'. (I guess it's kind of the way that certain 'papers of record' were attractive by reason of their very obscurity.) That's a really impressive ability to manipulate.

Uh, remind me, just who is supposed to 'get real' again?

somethgblue from Shelbyville, Tennessee on September 09, 2015:

A true Denialist to the end, yes they admitted the bronto story early on just not to the public, nor did they take it out of their education system, textbooks and history books, get real dude, you are going to blame the public for being gullible, that was good for a laugh!

I may have to quote you on that one, that was good! I have a list of ridiculous quotes made by HP writers I keep on my desk top so even if you delete it you will still get credit, WOW!

The first three words in your comment sums up your entire basis for making logical arguments "I Don't Think", nuff said, you get a star, case closed!

Doc Snow (author) from Camden, South Carolina on September 09, 2015:

I don't think the brontosaurus 'scam' really says much about science in general.

There's a good synopsis of it here:


"As it turns out, Marsh's mistake was called out by scientists long before the public was willing to let the Brontosaurus go, with the record being set straight over a century ago in 1903."

And as far as climate science goes, allegations of all sorts have been made. Every single time they've been investigated, they've been shown to be baseless or highly exaggerated.

somethgblue from Shelbyville, Tennessee on September 09, 2015:

Johnnycomelately, the truth isn't negative and the heart is definitely an intelligent thinking organ simply because you haven't grasped this concept . . yet, doesn't make it less so.

Read some of my articles The Flower of Life, Living Frugal A Way of Life (which won hub of the day, can you make that claim?), The Infinite Harmony, Is God A Musician?, Pineal Gland The God Organ (with over 30,000 pageviews, got one with that many?), Women Empowerment, Mother Earth and the Rise of the Female Spirit, Top Ten Science Fiction Novels of All Time and the list goes on and on . . .

I share my version of the truth, I create and introduce new ideas, concepts and speculation on a wide variety of subject matter and I always offer a solution, if their warrants one.

"Science ALWAYS keeps an open mind for new information to come into the picture. Greed and selfishness will usually deny it."

Not when the 'science' is already paid for to find an make the information fit the theory, this has been proven over and over again. Greed and selfishness is the reasons 'science' is bought and paid for, you said it yourself.

Take the Brontosaurs scam, they knew over a hundred years ago it was a contrived, fabricated animal created so the 'scientist' could continue to get Government grant money and travel the world.

Did they remove it from the history books, educational books, the Smithsonian Institute, NO they kept the scam going out of denial, pride, ego and selfishness, THEY DID NOT DENY IT.

They censored the information from the public, NASA, Geologist, Archeologists, Astronomers even Physicists continue to this day to deceive the public.

Lying is negative, telling the truth is positive!

I suggest you stop making suggestions and practice what you preach, look in the mirror and ask yourself if scamming the public is a worthwhile endeavor and a positive way of influencing young people.

Doc Snow (author) from Camden, South Carolina on September 09, 2015:

I'm not sure I do see your point, jack. I understand (and agree) that no single piece of research can possibly 'prove' a large proposition, such as 'humans are causing climate change by emitting carbon dioxide to the atmosphere in very large quantities.'

However, 'proof' is not a word that is used much in science these days anyway; the paradigm of Thomas Kuhn remains very influential. According to it, propositions are potentially scientific if they are falsifiable. Lab experiments of the sort you refer to are the ideal: if all variables are kept 'the same' then a clean falsification of a hypothesis may be possible. But even then, it's not so much 'proof' as 'disproof.'

But science does not end with lab experiments. It also encompasses much observational work. That is also true of climate science, where there has been incredible efforts in data collection, whether you think of satellites monitoring temperature, sea ice cover, CO2 concentration and numerous other parameters, of researchers counting birds in the rainforest, or hauling up water samples while standing on a heaving deck somewhere in the North Atlantic.

And 200 years of observation, questioning and analysis has bought us a pretty good idea of what is going on with CO2 and climate. We don't know everything, but we do have a very good idea that our practices are apt to cost us a lot of expense and pain if we don't find a more sustainable basis for our energy economy.

You want to 'wait and see' about climate change. My question to you is, just exactly what are you waiting for? Roger Revelle observed in 1958 that we had embarked on a 'vast experiment' with our global carbon emissions. Here's what the record shows:


It's not a completely clean 'experiment'. But seriously, what would you need to see in order to accept the mainstream point of view? Bear in mind that:

1) We don't have infinite amounts of time to change our economy, and

2) There will be folks looking to justify continued inaction and to persuade you that we need just a few more years of data before we are 'sure enough' to risk spending some money.

Jack Lee from Yorktown NY on September 09, 2015:

I think you missed my original point. I think some scientists are honest and doing good research. However, they can over reach in their conclusions with regard the causes of climate change. Hypothetically, lets say the earth is warming due to a change in sun activity. If a scientist is studying the ice in the artic or some plant life in the amazon whatever, he can deduce the earch is warming and having an effect... His technical papers published in journals can be perfectly sound. That by itself cannot proof that the warming is caused by man and increased co2. To do so, he would have to keep all variables the same and that is just not possible. The scientific method cannot be used here. I used the sun as one example of natural causes but there are many others. A large volcanic eruption can through off all data for years. I hope you see my point.

Doc Snow (author) from Camden, South Carolina on September 09, 2015:

Actually, I disagree with you on that, jcl. *Scientists* may sometimes be bought, but the scientific process, not so much. (The one area I'd possibly except here is pharmaceutical research, where there's been a much higher rate of malfeasance than in any other. Big Pharma has so much money to bring to bear, and the kinds of studies needed are so expensive, that keeping everything there on the up and up is much harder than in most arenas.) That's why the sorts of folks you are referring to--the Pat Michaels and Willy Soons of the world--are generally much more active as PR flaks than as researchers.

Soon was interesting as a partial exception, since he actually did publish a few papers, but the 'scientific process'--ie., professional researchers looking for research ideas--judged them as worthless and they sank without a trace (except of course in the denialist blogosphere.)

Doc Snow (author) from Camden, South Carolina on September 09, 2015:

jacklee, thanks for commenting again.

It's a fair point that journalists can turn up information without necessarily being able to do actual scientific analysis. However, they can also do hatchet jobs which completely distort the reality that they are supposed to be reporting on. I'm pretty sure that Mr. Steyn is engaging in the latter.

Why? Because of the verdict of the scientific literature on the hockey stick paper. The real 'scientific debate' is the one contained in the professional literature. That's why, to be a true scientist, you must do more than research a question; you must submit it to the judgment of your peers by publishing it in a professional journal where it can and will be read and vigorously criticized, replicated, debunked, defended, reinterpreted, and otherwise put through the wringer six ways from Sunday.

Well, it will, if its results are sufficiently interesting to merit that kind of effort. But we already know that the Mann, Bradley and Hughes 'hockey stick' papers of 1998-9 passed that test.

The 1998 paper has, according to Google Scholar, been now been cited 1809 times:


That's extremely influential--and it's not been an uncritical bunch of 'fan-boy' papers, either. There was a serious examination of the MBH results.

I say 'was', because the issue was largely settled in favor of MBH by 2007, when Wahl and Amman showed that the criticisms were not correct:


"...the Mann et al. reconstruction is robust against the proxy-based criticisms addressed. In particular, reconstructed hemispheric temperatures are demonstrated to be largely unaffected by the use or non-use of PCs to summarize proxy evidence from the data-rich North American region… Also, recent “corrections” to the Mann et al. reconstruction that suggest 15th century temperatures could have been as high as those of the late-20th century are shown to be without statistical and climatological merit."

I don't suppose Mr. Steyn addresses that result, nor the fact that recent work continues to come to the same broad conclusions as did MBH. For example, here's a Nature paper from last year, focussing on warming in the *Southern* hemisphere. It, too, shows a classic 'hockey stick' shape. (See their figure 2, which you can view from the linked page.)


I'm not surprised that Mr. Steyn can find 20 sources to say things that disparage Mann; there are at least that many paid shills among the 3% or so of climate scientists that do not (yet) accept the mainstream view. (Heck, I could probably guess some of the sources, just by running down the list of prominent 'contrarian' scientists.) I expect that his task was eased by--let me put this diplomatically--a lack of concern for context. That may be unfair, but I doubt it: previous efforts in the genre (e.g., "The Great Global Warming Swindle") are known for distorting use of selective quotation, to the point where sources have protested the abuse of their words:


And Mr. Steyn's reputation is not for considered use of language--to put it mildly.

So, you may like to believe that he is just debunking 'bad science.' But the scientific literature itself says something completely different.

A couple of points in conclusion. First, I remarked above that MBH never 'proved' global warming. Let me expand on that, because I think it's a telling point. What MBH did was to find effective ways to reconstruct past temperature trends, using proxy data. That was politically provocative, because it showed that recent warmth was unprecedented in the context of the last millennium-plus.

But if you think about it, that says nothing about causation; it says nothing about how warm things might get, or how good or bad that might be; and it bears not at all on the physics of the greenhouse effect.

Yet attacking MBH has been a recurrent obsession of certain folks ever since it came out. Why? Because it's a powerful result from a *purely emotional point of view.* It's never really been about the science, for the likes of the Wegman team and their political handlers. Nor is it, I believe, for Mr. Steyn.

Lastly, let me observe that you puzzle me, jack. You say "No need to debate the issue to death."

Yet here you are, promoting a book which seeks to debate a paper that's now 17 years old, that has been thoroughly examined (and validated) in the literature, and that is really not all that relevant, from a scientific point of view, in determining whether or not we ought to be concerned about climate change. Why?

Doc Snow (author) from Camden, South Carolina on September 09, 2015:

sb, I deleted one of your comments due to a vulgar 'suggestion' you made to jcl. That doesn't fly here.

Turning to a substantive point, you ask:

"So let me get this straight, you're saying a pot of water boils from the heat of the atmosphere around it not from the heat underneath it?"

No, you don't have that straight. I am saying that the atmosphere mediates heat loss from the ocean, in at least two different ways: it controls the ability of the ocean's surface to radiate heat directly to space, and it controls the ocean's loss of heat through evaporation.

The temperature of the ocean, like anything else, is controlled by the value of two terms, heat gain and heat loss. Let's consider a human being as an analogy for a moment: we are heated by the chemical energy contained in the food we eat, and cooled by a mix of direct radiation to the surrounding environment, convective heat transfer via air flow, and very importantly by the evaporation of water from our skin. We like to help control the first two of those by wearing clothing, which slows heat loss, making us warmer: that cosy flannel shirt traps warm air next to the skin, and blocks our skin's thermal radiation from escaping away very far.

Similarly, the ocean. It is heated by a mix of shortwave (solar) and long wave (atmospheric thermal) radiation. As you can see from the diagram linked below, the former contributes something like 161 watts per square meter. (I say 'something like' because the figure given is a global average, and the correct number for just the oceans would differ some.) The latter contributes 333 watts per square meter--roughly twice as much. So yes, the atmosphere does indeed heat the ocean, in a way.

But let's look at the cooling side, which as I've indicated is the really crucial bit. The diagram shows that the Earth's surface radiates 396 watts per square meter to the atmosphere. Of that 396, currently only 22 watts per square meter makes it out of the atmosphere and into space. The more CO2 in the air, the lower that number becomes.

What happens to the remainder? It's reabsorbed by the atmosphere. Ultimately, the atmosphere radiates a portion to space and a portion back to the surface, in a roughly 60/40 split.

Diagram link:


UCAR video explaining it:


jonnycomelately on September 09, 2015:


"... we KNOW that science is bought and paid for by special interest groups to try and convince an unsuspecting public of a certain paradigm."

Yes, we do know that. Big business leaders use greed and selfishness in their dealings. They pay "scientists" big biccies to give less than accurate reports and details of products, so that we, the general public buy those products. Our health and lives are put at risk by that sort of practice.

If you are only using your heart to judge the matters of science, then it is no wonder you are angry and perhaps confused. Your brain is where the important information should be assessed. That is your thinking organ, not your heart (which you obviously know is there to pump blood!).

Scientific enquiry, research, endeavour, is a way of obtaining facts. False science paints lies, as you have indicated. Science ALWAYS keeps an open mind for new information to come into the picture. Greed and selfishness will usually deny it.

So you don't get more and more negative in life, may I suggest you open your own mind to some beautiful and wonderous knowledge of this world. Buy yourself a magnifying lens. Use it to look at flowers and other minute things. Share this experience with young people, help them to open their minds as well. This way you will be doing the world a favour, instead of all that negative talk you have put over here in HubPages.

somethgblue from Shelbyville, Tennessee on September 09, 2015:

It's not that we don't understand science or the information, it's that we KNOW when we are being lied to.

Ask yourself and answer honestly why so many people don't agree with your stance? Is it that we simply don't understand? Is it that we aren't educated?

No, we KNOW that science is bought and paid for by special interest groups to try and convince an unsuspecting public of a certain paradigm.

This is the case, climate change used to be called global warming but when so many people, studies and per-reviewed studies showed it to be bogus, they made the name change, again to confuse the public perception.

Education uses antiquated theories and ideas, even the above article relies on ideas and concepts conceived of in the 1800s. Sure they have been modified but so what, its old antiquated thinking designed to show precedence.

I have read many per reviewed 'scientific' papers, articles and books that completely destroy the Ice Age theories created in the early 1800s for the creation of the surface of the Earth.

Our whole society is based on the concept of proof and yet sometimes when their is so much disagreement you have to throw that out and trust your heart. My heart tells me this is a scam.

The TRUTH stands alone and needs no defense.

jonnycomelately on September 08, 2015:

@somethgblue , a pot of water, if placed in a lower atmospheric pressure, will boil at a lower temperature, even without a heat sorce underneath the pot.

The mixing and movement of the atmosphere and oceans is so, so complex, infinitely so, that no one could possibly give an absolute explanation of exactly how the mixing is taking place at any one time. However, by careful, consistent measurements over a very wide area and over a very long time can yield scientific information from which to form theories, test those theories and come up with predictions.

Some of those predictions will prove correct. Others will not prove correct. Yet it's all a learning process which can ultimately benefit mankind - and the rest of the world, hopefully. None of it is perfect, we cannot expect it to be.

Ultimately, it does all depend upon individuals taking the time and trouble to learn scientific subjects thoroughly. I suggest you go back to school if you wish to criticize scientists. Get your facts right; don't depend on your beliefs.

somethgblue from Shelbyville, Tennessee on September 08, 2015:

So let me get this straight, you're saying a pot of water boils from the heat of the atmosphere around it not from the heat underneath it?

Also you censor my comment but then take bits and pieces of it out of context to make your counter argument, WOW!

That's a little hypocritical don't you think?

Doc Snowjob you have neatly sidestepped every question I have asked you, delete away baby, I would expect nothing less from a person unable to defend their own position?

What grade are you in?

Jack Lee from Yorktown NY on September 08, 2015:

Mark Steyn is quoting 20 plus scientists who has been critical of the hockey stick theory. He is reporting on the bad science. You don't need to be a scientist to recognize and expose problems. The fact speak for it self. In a few years, we will get to the truth. Either climate change is real or it is exaggerated to influence a political agenda. The science will suffer if the latter is proved. No need to debate the issue to death.

Doc Snow (author) from Camden, South Carolina on September 08, 2015:

Mark Steyn has no education in science whatsoever:


So how can he possibly 'expose problems' with the hockey stick graph? I would suggest that his book is nothing but a massive smear job. And I don't base that on my preferences, but on the scientific record with regard to Mann, Bradley and Hughes (1990), the 'hockey stick' paper: its broad findings have been reproduced independently numerous times since then. In fact, it's an extremely important paper, not because it 'proves' global warming--it doesn't, as Dr. Mann has been pointing out for years--but because it helped spark a whole new area of inquiry, the use of proxy data to reconstruct ancient temperatures (and other meteorological data, too.) That's why Dr. Mann has been awarded some of the highest scientific honors:


Mark Steyn, meanwhile, is defending himself in a lawsuit Dr. Mann brought against him for defamation of character:


Jack Lee from Yorktown NY on September 08, 2015:

I agree with you somethgblue. The latest book by Mark Steyn - A disgrace to the profession, takes on Michael Mann's hockey stick graph and exposes the problems with that. Climate scientists have a lot of explaining to do. I don't understand why some have this blind allegiance to "science" when they have been wrong so many times in past history. They are human and human can and will makes mistakes and they have biases. It takes a certain honesty and humbleness to admit either one does't know or one is wrong about something. I hope these scientist will do the right thing.

jonnycomelately on September 08, 2015:

Mmmm... Mr. Frank Luntz. It seems the only science he is familiar with is Political Science. Do you suppose he is in the least bit interested in honest facts regarding climate change or global warming?

Emotions are his love of life. Emotional assessment of the challenges of our world environment will not save the planet from human ravages. Cool, calm, well researched, hard facts will give us some understanding of what we individually and as communities must do, urgently now and in the long-term.

The honest scientist is one who is willing to say "we got it wrong, but we have learned a great deal. Let's now reassess and get it right."

Fortunately we have some very worth members of this group.

A religious philosopher is most unlikely to admit to being wrong..... and there are plenty of those in HubPages.

Doc Snow (author) from Camden, South Carolina on September 08, 2015:

Somethingblue, I deleted your first comment for using gratuitous insults. I don't put with that sort of thing, so if you want to resubmit your comment without questioning my honesty, feel free. Just stick to the point, and I'll let it through.

Summarizing what you said, for those who now can't read the post directly, you state or imply that:

1) "we know that the atmosphere can't possibly warm up the ocean…"

2) Some mysterious phenomenon, unspecified except that it is "causing all the massive fish and bird kills world wide", is what is, according to you, warming the ocean.

3) Also, could "a million cracks, fissures and volcanic openings on the ocean floors" heat up the ocean?

4) The warming ocean must be the 'real culprit' behind climate change/global warming.

Some comments:

1) And how do 'we' know that, exactly? True, the ocean has much greater thermal mass than the atmosphere, but that does not mean that heat cannot flow from the latter to the former. More importantly, the atmosphere can influence the temperature of the ocean in other ways than directly heating it: loss of heat *from* the ocean can only really occur via the atmosphere. So atmospheric conditions can control *how fast the ocean can cool.* That will in turn have a great bearing on its temperature.

2) And just what do you claim this mysterious 'something' actually is? HAARP, maybe? If so, on what evidence--because I've never seen anything that even truly suggests that HAARP actually exists.

3) Those geologists--just who are they, by the way, and where did they publish their findings?--probably made some estimates of the energy fluxes from those vents. What do those estimates show?

And perhaps more to the point, is there any evidence that the numbers or flow rates of those heat sources have changed significantly over the past decades? Because if they haven't, they can't explain changes in global warming.

4) Yes, absolute humidity does affect heat fluxes to the atmosphere. There's this thing called 'evapotranspiration' which carries a fair bit of heat upwards from the surface; it's been studied a lot by climate scientists. Absolute humidity also affects global warming radiatively, because water vapor is a potent greenhouse gas. And absolute humidity has been rising over the decades, due to rising temperatures which allow the air to hold more moisture. That's an important 'feedback' mechanism, by which greenhouse warming is amplified.

One last point in answer to your question about the terms "global warming" and "climate change". They refer to slightly different (but related) things: "global warming" refers to a specific temperature trend. And there can be no question about it: it's simply an observed fact. The planet has been warming over most of the period since the Industrial Revolution.

"Climate change" is a more general term; it takes in things beyond just temperature change, such as changes in storm tracks and other aspects of atmospheric circulation, changes in humidity, evaporation and other aspects of the water cycle, or changes in the cryosphere, such as you discuss above.

Both terms have been in use since at least the nineteen-fifties in the scientific literature. Some prefer one term to the other; for instance, the Republican political strategist Frank Luntz advised the Bush administration that they should use 'climate change' because it sounded 'less severe':


somethgblue from Shelbyville, Tennessee on September 08, 2015:

"There cannot be more ice above the surface than below at any time.", exactly my point, so for Arctic Ice to melt it MUST happen below the surface, end of story.

Perhaps you could write an article explaining how the Medieval Warm Period (800-1300 A.D.) was caused by automobiles without of course using science fiction?

. . . don't those little dots indicate where quotes are missing information or are being taken out of context?

Again as you so neatly sidestepped my question about airplane travel, I would expect nothing less on your own article, typical tactic.

jonnycomelately on September 08, 2015:

There cannot be more ice above the surface than below at any time.

"...we are aware that temperatures ....are rising...." Are we?! How does that have relevence in this discussion?

Your train of logic seems to have stopped at an out-of-the-way station.

somethgblue from Shelbyville, Tennessee on September 08, 2015:

Sorry but since the majority is below the surface it still remains the majority below the surface, regardless of how much ice melts above.

Only when there is more ice above the surface than below does that make a difference and by that time the iceberg has already melted almost completely, not too mention, it often flips and rolls.

Since we are both aware that every planet in the solar system temperature is rising perhaps you could explain how our automobiles are accomplishing that, as long as we are on science fiction?

jonnycomelately on September 08, 2015:

@somethgblue , a few points I would like to make:

"Since we both know the majority of the Arctic Ice is below sea level" -- you would be aware that the ice does not remain below the surface. As that portion above the surface becomes warms and melts, the lower portion gradually rises to displace that which has melted.

You might be more enlightened by considering the enormous amount of heat generated by automobiles like yours, billions of them, day-in-day-out, across the globe. Don't worry yourself about volcanic activity below the surface.

Finally, I suggest you concentrate on science fiction. Maybe you could be gainfully employed in a new James Bond/Jedi collaboration that exposes hitherto un-expected radiation coming from your evil planet out there.


Doc Snow (author) from Camden, South Carolina on July 24, 2015:

You raise another good point there, johnny.

Our whole economic system is built around the exploitation of fossil fuels. We've started to shift that, as I wrote about here:


But creating a sustainable economy is an enormous challenge, requiring planning, political will, technological innovation and development--and a whole lot of plain old work and money. I don't know who said it, but "You can't turn the Titanic on a dime."

To me, at least, that's another good reason *not* to just 'wait a few years.'

jonnycomelately on July 24, 2015:

Personally, I prefer to see people of technical training and ability working hard at devising new and innovative ways to reduce our human degradation of this planet.

With the world population now over 7,000,000,000, and with our huge demand on ever-dwindling resources, this is bound to make equally big changes that we will have to face.

Please don't anyone try to convince me that billions of internal combustion engines across the globe, day-in-and-day-out, 24 hours continuously, and spewing out the bi-products of incomplete combustion, cannot amount to significant and life-threatening changes.

The people who will try to convince us are those who stand to pocket the benefits of exploitation; those who disregard the needs of less fortunate people and populations; those who bully, cheat and lie their way into huge fortunes at other's expense.

A positive and hopeful antidote to all of this might be seen in experiments to begin in South Australia.... the computer-guided, driver-less vehicle. A set speed on the highway, no overtaking, locked into position in a "train" of vehicles; no crashes; car full of occupants instead of just one; programmed to leave the highway at specific points where the vehicle then becomes individually guided to the local destination.

So, this is the way my mind prefers to work and play. The arguments about if, or when, or how climate will affect us becomes unnecessary and time-wasters, irrelevant.

Jack, as an engineer you have some work to do. Do you feel like inspiring and encouraging undergraduates? The world is crying out for more of this, surely?

Doc Snow (author) from Camden, South Carolina on July 24, 2015:

Nicely summed up, IMO, johnny.

Jack, sorry to be so long-winded in my response, but I wanted to give a concrete sense of the depth of the history here. Perhaps I should just have pointed to my Hub on that:


Two points. One, you are an engineer. You've probably studied some stats, yes? So, regarding the Rose piece, what happens when 'n' is too small? And which graph is better in that regard, his, or one like this:


Two, can we afford further delay in order to resolve a policy controversy that is clearly manufactured? Because there's no economic way of drawing down CO2, our emissions choices today and tomorrow are "for keeps." If the mainstream science is correct--and I'm going to assume here that you've heard about the numerous official statements by scientific societies, and the literature and professional surveys that document that "mainstream" is the correct word--we are not currently in failsafe mode.

Jack Lee from Yorktown NY on July 24, 2015:

jonnycomelately - Thanks for the info and the advice. I come to this topic via a long path. In the beginning, I bought into this whole global warming and green philosophy but changed my mind over time. Mainly due to the radical claims that did not come to fruition. I am not the only one by the way. I followed quite a few scientists who have made the same discovery. I will still keep an open mind but I think the table is turning. As I said, in a few years, we will know who is right. BTW, I am not disputing the the earth is warming - just the theory of AGW, where humans are the primary cause. There are many good scientists who study various aspects of global warming and have looked at the problem from their niche. They may be perfectly valid but they don't proof AGW.

You can say because the earth is warming we can see XYZ happening. That is not to say we caused it. I hope you see the difference.

jonnycomelately on July 24, 2015:

Jacklee, I don't want to discredit you or your opinions. You obviously are trying to get "at the truth," in regards to the popular understanding of "Climate Change." We, including myself and many others contributing to HubPages, are obviously also very keen to see the true nature of the Beast we might be confronting.

Personally, I don't have any university degree, engineering, scientific or otherwise. My secondary schooling led only to a broad appreciation of scientific subjects, but I have grown in my interests over the past 60 years and try to decipher reasonable and intelligent understanding.

So, in highlighting a couple of points you make here and in your other Hub, just started a few days ago, let me just make a couple of points for you to consider.

First, when you quote a link to The Daily Mail, you are referring to a newspaper that is tabloid and tends to like sensational reporting to support its conservative political views. Years ago, when it was printed in broadsheet, it tended to be very much more responsible and reasonable. It was my family's favourite. Not now though.... I give it wide avoidance.

Secondly, David Rose is not noted for being a-political and impartial. You may like reading his reports simply because they tend to back your way of thinking. That is hardly likely to promote truth.... only belief and opinion.

I did some more searching for opinionated reporting and came up with this:


It shows how distorted reporting can influence those of the general public who are unable, for whatever reason, to question and delve further.

Professor Judith Curry is quoted in such a way as to promote the "anti-Climate Change" camp, but when you read further, she is a very credible scientist, seemingly very honest, and promoting caution concerning predictions.

I would ask you not to be too closely and tightly aligned with the anti- brigade. Keep your obviously curious mind open to other data and educated opinions.

Jack Lee from Yorktown NY on July 23, 2015:

doc snow - Thanks for the long history lesson. In my comment, I was referring to the following article -


In a few short years, we will know if the predictions pan out.

The graph in the article is self explanatory. I rather wait till then before making up my mind. I am a skeptic of AGW and don't want to waste resources on some theory that is still "controversial."

Doc Snow (author) from Camden, South Carolina on July 23, 2015:

Thanks for your comment, johnny.

Jack, I just want to address one point you raise: "Here is what I believe will happen. In the next few years, we will know if AGW is true or it is a small effect."

My question is, will we? Forgive me if you already are aware of the history here, but the essential scientific basis of AGW theory had been laid by the end of the 19th century. Several of the challenges to that theory--saturation of the CO2 radiation bands perhaps most notably--were hashed out by 1938, when Guy Callendar began his efforts to bring the theory into the modern era. Another, marine absorption of CO2, was resolved in the late 1950s, with a classic paper by Bolin and Erikson, and detailed mathematical treatments of radiative transfer in the atmosphere were achieved in the 1960s.

It was in that context that Roger Revelle remarked that humanity was engaged in a vast geochemical experiment which could never be repeated; if global temperatures continued rising, we would know that what's now sometimes called AGW was correct.

And for the most part, those temperatures have in fact just kept on rising. We've had an explosion of research on climate issues, as the realization that this could be more than a scientific problem grew much starker. And the IPCC came along to synthesize the true 'scientific debate', which is the one that occurs in the professional literature. The first Assessment Report, from the early 1990s, made no great claims. But by the new millennium, the climate science community was convinced: the 'signal' of anthropogenic climate change had been detected in the temperature record.

Now, more than a decade later, what do we see? Public concern is pretty high on the topic, and we may hope for an international agreement to emerge out of the COP process this December in Paris. Yet there are still those who continue to resurrect those old scientific attacks, from saturation to the second law of thermodynamics. In the face of many new temperature records, they simply apply conspiracy theory: thousands of scientists are just lying, either because they want more grant money, or because they want to abet the creation of a new world order, perhaps one modeled on Maurice Strong's "Agenda 21."

Do you really think that a couple of more years of heat records will make a huge difference to that segment of opinion? I sure don't--though the majority of the public are not so oblivious to the changes occurring all around us.

In my opinion, we've already wasted far too much time in taking decisive action to mitigate greenhouse emissions. Objectively, we are running out of carbon budget. Mitigation costs money and carbon emissions--for example, if you want to close a carbon-spewing coal plant, you need to build something else, whether it's a nuclear plant, a wind farm or a solar plant. And delay is expensive, too. Clean energy has many co-benefits, as well--for example, coal particulates are a major contributor to asthma, which costs the economy many millions each year in treatment costs and lost productivity. So addressing carbon emissions can be a low-regrets strategy, even if somehow, after five decades of watching it in action, we are mistaken about it. (And we aren't.)

Jack Lee from Yorktown NY on July 23, 2015:

jonnycomelately - As I said in my hub, I am open to evidence if they become overwhelming. That has been my problem with the Climate scientist community. I have an engineering degree. I deal with facts. If the models don't fit, I would think they need to question why. Instead, they want us to trust them and when thing don't pan out, they come up with excuses after excuses to explain it. That is not science.

Here is what I believe will happen. In the next few years, we will know if AGW is true or it is a small effect. We have enough of a history to proof one way or another. I'm will to wait. If it turns out to be a bigger factor, we would need a vastly better means to deal with it. Something on the order of the Apollo project that put man on the moon. Anything short of that would be useless.

jonnycomelately on July 23, 2015:

@Jack, it sounds to me like you have your opinion, want to protect that opinion from any contradiction and will hook out any possible little bit of information, whether plausible or not, in order to support your opinion.

That is not scientific.

As Doc Snow has pointed out, " ....since everything in science, no matter how well established, remains open to challenge in principle." I wonder if your (Jack's) opinions are equally open to challenge in principle. If they are, then that would be an even playing field of discussion. If not, then your opinions do not remain open to scrutiny and credibility, in my opinion.

For this sort of discussion to be any more fruitful than an argument over the beer bar, each participant needs to have honesty and openness to listen and learn.

Doc Snow (author) from Camden, South Carolina on July 23, 2015:

Jack, to disagree with your point is not the same as missing it--and I am not Al Gore.

As to the sun, it's mostly a red herring in this debate. True, a really massive solar event could wipe out Terrestrial life, but we have no control over that. Objective, openly-documented evidence--by the bucketful--tells us that we are shooting ourselves in the foot (to put it mildly) with our carbon addiction.


Yes, that's one of *those* websites, but I judge on the quality of information and analysis: does it accurately and fully report what its primary sources say? Does it present consistent and logical analysis? Does it make its sources traceable?

I appreciate your concern that I expose myself to a variety of viewpoints. But much of what I've learned about climate over the years has come from taking skeptics seriously and checking their claims against reliable authorities. It's now rare for me to hear a new argument--and I'm afraid the old ones haven't gotten any stronger.

Best wishes to you, too.

Jack Lee from Yorktown NY on July 23, 2015:

doc snow - You are obviously missing my point and it is useless to keep this up. I am familiar with the sites you link and they are produced by the very same people you agree with but they are not the only "truth" out there. Hence the debate site try to show there are much more to this. It is Al Gore who said "the science is settled" trying to shut down dissenting opinion.

The bottom line is, you can't predict what the sun will do tomorrow or next year or next 100 years. No scientists can. That is the quandary.

Peace. I will not try to sway you.

Doc Snow (author) from Camden, South Carolina on July 23, 2015:

Jack, how does a list of media articles arranged in 'pro' and 'con' format have anything whatever to say about the science being 'settled' or not? And, for that matter, when exactly did I ever say it *was* 'settled'?

(For the record, scientists don't like that wording, since everything in science, no matter how well established, remains open to challenge in principle. I respect their preference, and so don't make that claim. But that doesn't mean that we 'just don't know,' as you like to put it. There is quite a lot that is known pretty darn definitely, and there is little reasonable doubt that 1) CO2 is rising; 2) CO2 warms the atmosphere; 3) We doing it; and 4) The results will not be good for us. Again, I've already linked the Hubs on that.)

I'm willing to keep responding as long as you like, but I think it would be more fun for those reading the thread if you actually addressed what I say. There's no evidence that you've read any of the pieces I linked, and not that many occasions when you've responded directly to any of the points I've made.

Jack Lee from Yorktown NY on July 23, 2015:

Here is the website I read on a regular basis in additional to others -


Hence the science is not settled.

Doc Snow (author) from Camden, South Carolina on July 23, 2015:

And while I'm doing links, let's add one that explains the "Affair of the Tropospheric Temperatures":


There are numerous secondary links, some extremely lengthy and detailed, for those who wish to investigate further.

Doc Snow (author) from Camden, South Carolina on July 23, 2015:

Let's make that last link clickable, if we can:


Doc Snow (author) from Camden, South Carolina on July 23, 2015:

Jack, I can't convince you if you are unwilling to look at the hard evidence I point you to. But there is no shortage of such, as the links I've already given show.

Conversely, you can convince me if you present something that really does amount to hard evidence. But the details have to be straight, and must check out. The links at the end of your Hub don't cut it (except the 'hurricane drought' one, which as I said above is irrelevant.) Take the 2010 American Thinker article claiming to 'disprove the AGW hypothesis'--it approves measurements in the 3 papers cited, but then arbitrarily disallows certain methodologies (apparently because the result is considered 'wrong' by the writer), and actually reverses the paper's stated conclusions! Basically, it amounts to the author saying "Well, these papers found AGW to be real, but they should have found the opposite!"

And I certainly can cite successful model predictions: the most dramatic was the successful prediction of the cooling effect of the Mt. Pinatubo eruption by James Hanson. But there have been numerous others, including the affair of the lower troposphere temps. There, the UAH satellite measurements seemed to show that climate modeling was overstating upper air warming. Turned out the 'skeptics' had essentially subtracted where they should have added!

Lastly, if you are open to looking at "warmist" information, a good discussion of both 'pause' and model-observation agreement is here:


Jack Lee from Yorktown NY on July 23, 2015:

Doc Snow - As an AGW skeptic, I just don't see the "human contribution" being all that significant. This is evident by the extremes some climate scientists try to explain away the "hiatus" of global warming. Ask yourself, if the "pause" was due to cherry picking of data as you claim, why would they need to explain it?

Here is my hub on this topic -


If you check the links at the end, you will see some recent news that are contrary to your position.

Can you point to one climate model that even come close to projecting future conditions that have a good track record? You can't.

In the final analysis, we just don't know. That is my main objection to anyone "experts" who claim to know and make scary projects to win over naive readers. It's almost becoming a religion with some climate scientists. They won't accept any evidence contrary to their main theory.

I guess I can't convince you and you can't convince me - "until real hard evidence" is found. Peace.

Doc Snow (author) from Camden, South Carolina on July 23, 2015:

I have read the Climategate emails, quite extensively, which is why I feel pretty confident in my statements above. I'd add that if you read beyond the few that were quoted endlessly (but without context), it's abundantly obvious that the writers were sincere in their scientific views--the frustration, dismay, peevishness, and snark that surfaces at times toward certain critics (if that is the word I want) shows that in an unvarnished manner.

As to the Pew link, I think that the fact that at a global level climate change tops the list of concerns does rather support what I said. And it would seem a pretty good refutation of your claim that "few people" believe the IPCC.

I also don't agree that I denigrated you. Anyone can be mistaken or confused; it's part of the human condition, and if I tell you frankly that I think that in this case you are, I mean no disrespect.

As to being 'a bit behind', well, read this:


As you can see, the 'pause'--for which, as I said above, there was never any statistically significant evidence--is now 'toast.' It was always based upon a cherry-picked start date, the monster El Nino of 1998, which, by temporarily raising global mean surface temperature provided an unrepresentatively high 'starting value', guaranteeing that no warming trend would emerge for a long time. The insistence upon this statistically invalid model is the true 'data manipulation' that has been attempted. And it's been done in the open by people who have the gall to call themselves 'skeptics.' In reality, they've been doing nothing but taking advantage of the statistical illiteracy most of us suffer from.

Jack Lee from Yorktown NY on July 22, 2015:

doc snow - I wish you wouldn't try to win the argument by denigrating me.

I try to be respectful of you. Are we reading the same chart from pew global? According to your own link - of the top populated countries in the world - only India has 73% on climate change, US - 42, Germany - 34, China -19, Russia 22, UK 38 and Japan - 42. That is not an overwhelming support for your argument.

The email if you have the inclination to read them, clearly shows that the scientists involved could not explain the lack of warming around the world based on their "models". They were clueless and instead of admitting it, they doubled down and tampered with the data and made even bigger claims. They justify their actions by "the end justify the means..." Where have we heard that before?

Doc Snow (author) from Camden, South Carolina on July 22, 2015:

About global concern over climate change:


Doc Snow (author) from Camden, South Carolina on July 22, 2015:

Jacklee, I'm afraid you are both comfused and a bit behind developments. A recent poll by the Pew Trust found high levels of concern about climate change at global level--in fact, it was the top concern overall.

And most of the Climategate emails were written before anyone even claimed there was a 'pause'. (IIRC, the hack was 2009, while the earliest claims of a 'pause' were in 2006. But many of the emails were already years old.)

Jack Lee from Yorktown NY on July 22, 2015:

doc snow - I am a skeptic until more definitive evidence. I also created hub on AGW if you care to read it. I've been following this subject for over 2o years and I am very much informed. I wish the scientist will just admit that they just don't know..., at least that will give them some credibility. I am reminded of the childhood story of the boy that cried wolf. The IPCC have overplayed their hands and now few people believe them. Latest poll of people that show climate change is on the bottom of list of things that concern people most. I wonder why. The climategate emails were very illuminating. They tried to hide the "pause" by manipulating the raw temperature data. I can only point out the obvious. You will need to do the homework.

Doc Snow (author) from Camden, South Carolina on July 21, 2015:

Thanks for commenting, johnny!

Sadly, we are all part of the climate-change problem, whether we want to be or not. We can't help it, as we are parts of a system largely dependent upon fossil fuels for its everyday operation.

But some are *also* part of the solution!

Doc Snow (author) from Camden, South Carolina on July 21, 2015:

jacklee, I appreciate your comments. However, you could be better informed.

1) The fact that Wilma was the last major hurricane to hit the US (2005) says nothing whatever about hurricane trends. The 'hurricane drought' appears to be nothing more than chance:


"So what's causing this streak? Hall says he and his team didn't find much had changed. Instead, he's chalking it up to luck.

"Colorado State Universtiy meteorologist Phil Klotzbach, who was not a part of the study, agrees. "I think that there has been a significant 'luck' component involved. But there has also been a predominant trough along the East Coast from 2006-2014, which has generated steering currents that have tended to push the storms away from the U.S. coast."

"One of the reasons researchers believe that there hasn't been a real change in hurricane seasons is that Atlantic hurricane seasons have been average, as measured by accumulated cyclone energy (ACE) since 2006. ACE is a measure of tropical cyclone activity, taking into account the number, strength and duration of all the tropical cyclones in a season. According to the researchers, "The 2006-2014 annual mean ACE is 97, compared to a 1951-2000 mean of 93.""

2) The so-called 'pause' is no longer 'current':


And, actually, there was never any reason to expect climate models to predict it: the 'weather' in each model run is different, and does not track the real world. Projections are then made on the basis of *all* runs, often weighted on the basis of demonstrated model skill. And that means that the biggest weather variations are averaged out.

The observational record has never significantly moved out of the 95% confidence 'envelope' of the model ensembles. That means that there has *never* been any statistically significant evidence of a 'pause'--like the hurricane drought, it doesn't go beyond the bounds of what we know is reasonably likely to occur by chance.

3) The sunspot cycle has nothing to do with carbon-induce warming--though you might well ask yourself, if the solar cycle has been relatively quiet (as it has), then why aren't we actually *cooling* rather than experiencing warming? After all, 2014 was the warmest year on record in several of the major datasets, and 2015 is on track to be warmer than 2014 was. Yet the peak of the solar cycle is almost surely behind us, and it was a pretty weak peak. So, where's the cooling?

So, your three pieces of 'hard evidence' are, in order, irrelevant, wrong, and irrelevant.

As to my 'hard evidence,' I suggest you read my series of four Hubs, "How Do We Know That We Need To Act On Climate Change". The first one is here:


jonnycomelately on July 21, 2015:

Whatever the answer to your question might be, are you playing your part in reducing abuse and over-use of the world's resourses?

If not, you are part of the climate-change problem!

Jack Lee from Yorktown NY on July 21, 2015:

Did you miss the fact that no major storms (cat 3 or higher) has landed in the last 9 years?


Also, all 44 climate models have failed to predict our current "pause" in rising temperatures.

Also, the solar sunspot cycle of 11 years is entering a quite period and scientists are baffled by it.

In light of all these hard evidence, how can you still believe that man is the major cause of climate change?

Doc Snow (author) from Camden, South Carolina on March 22, 2015:

Good question, johnny. Yes, vehicles are a significant source of GHG emissions. Just how significant, relative to other sources, varies, depending upon the state of the local/regional/national economy. To illustrate, for the US electrical generation is the biggest source of GHGs, contributing 32% of the total. Transportation comes next at 28%. I would guess that transportation might account for more in a country like Canada, where electrical generation is less carbon-intensive due to considerable use of hydropower.


Current-day volcanoes are a much smaller source of GHGs than human emissions, although some--notably Dr. Ian Plimer, who really should know better--have claimed otherwise:


Basically, human CO2 emissions are about 100 times larger than volcanic emissions.

Direct heating is also not the issue for climate. Waste heat may play a role in highly localized situations, like the famous 'urban heat island' effect. But it is completely dwarfed by the radiative effect of greenhouse gases--they have more 'leverage', so to speak. Solar heating is so large that it completely dominates the equation. The greenhouse effect, on the other hand, really affects not the warming side of the process, but the *cooling* side of it--the atmosphere doesn't permit radiative cooling that's quite as efficient as it used to be. That's what meant by the well-known shorthand phrase that GHGs 'trap heat.'

jonnycomelately on March 21, 2015:

Doc Snow, like other commenters above, I am also impressed by your careful research; methodical assessment of all questions and doubts as put by skeptics; patience with the "believers." Thank you.

I was sitting in a traffic queue in the peak hour and considering that, around the world, 24hrs a day, every day (including weekends) of the year, every country and every town/city has its peak hour traffic, some much more than we see here in our little island of Tasmania (500,000 population).

Obviously, there are billions of vehicles at any one moment, pushing out Carbon Dioxide, Water Vapour and heat. Considering the average efficiency of the internal combustion engine, probably at least 70% of the fuel being burned ends up as heat polluting our atmosphere.

This alone I suspect could be one of the biggest causes of global warming. Am I correct? Could this source of heat be greater even than forest fires, volcanoes and power stations?

Doc Snow (author) from Camden, South Carolina on March 13, 2015:

Thanks, Kristen! I appreciate you taking the time to say so.

Don't know if you caught this, but my latest Hubs constitute a series of four, setting out some of the basics:





I call it the 'applied epistemology' of climate change!

Kristen Howe from Northeast Ohio on March 13, 2015:

Interesting insight on climate change, Doc. What an interesting hub, too. Voted up!

Doc Snow (author) from Camden, South Carolina on October 15, 2013:

"Enough active individuals--that's what I want to see. Then the feds can walk at the head of the crowd as if they're leading!"


Thanks for that!

David Guion from North Carolina on October 15, 2013:

Enough active individuals--that's what I want to see. Then the feds can walk at the head of the crowd as if they're leading!

The trouble is that sustainability doesn't seem "normal". It seems to a lot of people to be for elitist snobs who look down on everyone else, or for carefree hippies who have nothing to do with real life, or for fools who take Chicken Little seriously.

Enough active individuals, up close and personal enough to seem like real people instead of some stereotype, might just reach a tipping point before anything else does.

Oh, and some large corporations are driving changes that could become systemic--while too much of the "green" crowd keeps complaining about the evils and greed of making a profit. That rhetoric doesn't help the cause at all.

Doc Snow (author) from Camden, South Carolina on October 15, 2013:

Thanks for dropping by to comment, apg. I like your approach, but I have to add that individual actions aren't enough--we need systemic change in order avoid a real mess. (Of course, if we have enough active individuals, systemic change is much more likely.)

Anyway, best of luck, and stay in touch!

David Guion from North Carolina on October 15, 2013:

Dorsi, you had it right the first time--the path we have created. Here's Pogo's Earth Day thought: "We have met the enemy and they is us." Where do you think government and special interests come from? And do you think climate change deniers have cornered the market on either willful ignorance or loudness?

By the way, polling and market research indicate that many more people agree that the climate is changing than are motivated to act because of it. While other people are loudly arguing about climate change, I would rather quietly find out what would motivate people to make real changes. Even the Georgia Tea Party favors more solar energy!

What matters more? Persuading people to change sides in a divisive argunent, or persuading people to do good by the environment for whatever reasons actually motivate them?

I'm trying to accomplish the latter at my blog http://eco.allpurposeguru.com. Sooner or later I'll add more of those thoughts to what I have already contributed to Hub Pages.

Doc Snow (author) from Camden, South Carolina on October 12, 2013:

Dorsi, thanks for that.

Yes, it is indeed difficult to witness the wilful ignorance that is so--'loud,' I think is the best word--in so many public fora. But the volume level does not reflect public opinion accurately--and that will be more and more true as we go forward. I just hope that as the reality we face becomes more and more obvious there will still be time to at least limit the damage we end up doing.

Dorsi Diaz from The San Francisco Bay Area on October 11, 2013:

Doc, very well written hub with lots of data to back up what you say. We are watching the death of our Earth due to greed. I have written about climate change over at the SF Examiner for years, and stood by and watched people argue over it, whether it even exists, which just mortifies me. I don't see any way out of the path we have created for ourselves (or should I say the path the government and special interest groups have created) It's tragic and hard to see this unfold in front of our very eyes and know that life for our kids and grand-kids is going to be horribly, horribly difficult, if they even live though the changes to come. Thanks for writing this. Pinned, shared and tweeted.

Doc Snow (author) from Camden, South Carolina on September 01, 2013:

Hi, 'is'--

Yes, there *has* been a lot of response to this Hub--your comment is the 43rd. It's still not the comments champ, though. That honor goes to "When Did Global Warming Stop?" which has accumulated 67 comments since 2011. Link:


I perceive that as a snappy title of sorts, too, so perhaps it supports your thought about the importance of titles.

In the realm of total views, the best climate change Hub is historical--specifically, my essay on the life, times, and climate science of John Tyndall, the man who discovered greenhouse gases, back in 1859. (Before him, the existence of the greenhouse effect had been inferred, but no-one really had much idea what it was about the atmosphere that was causing it.) It has currently been viewed a bit over 3,500 times. (Only 8 comments, though.) Link:


I suppose I should also mention another honor, too. One of my climate Hubs was recently picked as an "Editor's Choice." Like the Tyndall Hub, it has 8 comments, but just a bit more than 1,000 views. Link:


Warning: it's a *long* Hub!

Turning from all the self-promotion, I'm envious--I couldn't go when Bill McKibben spoke in Atlanta last year. (But a couple of those church friends did, and found it quite inspiring.)

We're doing a couple of things. First, the meeting I wrote about resulted in the decision to attempt to seek the UUA's "Green Sanctuary" designation:


That's perhaps the most exciting initiative. I think we are also likely to form a Climate Action Team within the congregation--I'm not quite what that means yet, to be honest!

I was also invited by one of our congregants to sit in on a meeting arranged (in conjunction with the Citizen's Climate Lobby) with our local Congressman, which took place last Friday. I'm still digesting that event, I suppose.

I'm glad to hear that good things are happening in Columbia--not just generically glad, either; my wife and I are planning to retire to Lake Wateree in a few years, and of course Camden is within Columbia's orbit, so to speak. Let's do stay in touch around the various developments that may come down the pike.

i scribble on September 01, 2013:

It's wonderful that you're getting so many comments/readers on this one. I think it's the title that draws people in. It drew me in. Is this the best response you've gotten on a climate hub?

I'm excited to share that I'm going to Charleston to hear Bill McKibben speak in Oct. I'm also encouraged that my community -Columbia, SC (at least us progressives) starting to mobilize on the climate crisis, with help from Organizing For Action. Hopefully the same is happening in Atlanta. Every state has an OFA organizer. I'll keep you posted on what we're up to. I'd like to hear what your church friends are doing as well.

Doc Snow (author) from Camden, South Carolina on August 28, 2013:

Hey, thanks for sharing that. I suppose it's like automobile-related deaths: the total number is (or should be) shocking, but there's not a single villain or even single cause common to all.

(During the Vietnam era, about as many people died each year in traffic accidents as Americans died in the whole war--but the emotional response for the latter case was much stronger. Nowadays we're down to not much more than two-thirds of that toll, thankfully.)


P. Orin Zack on August 28, 2013:

There's an interesting article about the psychology of why it is so hard to get people to think in these terms over at Bloomberg. (I found a reference to it at slashdot.org)


A key point is that people tend to be especially focused on risks or hazards that have an identifiable perpetrator. Events with diffuse causes or those at the far end of a causal cascade are therefore hard sells. A few years ago, I wrote a short story called "Cascade" about the latter type, which you can read at my blog. One reason I wrote that story was to point out that if you recognize such a cascade before it is triggered, there is no place to report it, because it does not fall into anyone's jurisdiction. Yet they can cause great damage.

Doc Snow (author) from Camden, South Carolina on August 26, 2013:

I can be a talker... even in 'print.'


David Guion from North Carolina on August 26, 2013:

Wow! You practically wrote another hub in your comment! Thanks. I'll study it.

Doc Snow (author) from Camden, South Carolina on August 26, 2013:

Thanks, APG!

What came before? The Medieval Climate Optimum (AKA Medieval Warm Period.) They are still working on its timing and spatial structure. The North Atlantic basin was definitely warmer prior to the Little Ice Age, but it's unclear to what extent that was true in other parts of the world.

There is a lot of study that has gone into this--too much, really, for causal perusal:


The most recent 'big' recontruction was Marcott et al, explained here, with many links (including data sources):


A more user-friendly, but still very substantive, summary and discussion

can be found here:


(There are two follow-up posts as well; the original and follow-ups are mentioned in the RC intro paragraph, with links.)

The short version is that the warmest part of the Holocene era ran from about 8,000 to 3,000 years ago, and that things had been cooling since--until the rapid warming seen in the latter part of the last century. The former part is consistent with what we would expect based upon the natural orbital 'cycles' that seem to pace the timing of glaciations and de-glaciations; the latter part is not, but *is* consistent with CO2-forced warming.

And therein lies an important point. At best, paleoclimate can provide context and afford data to investigate various correlations--like CO2 and temperature. But we all know that correlation isn't always due to causation.

However, the basic physical mechanism of greenhouse warming is well-understood and not controversial--scientifically speaking. (The blogosphere is quite another matter.) Essentially, greenhouse gases reduce the planet's cooling efficiency--that's because the gases act somewhat as fog does for visible light: they reduce visibility. But they reduce the 'visibility' for radiant heat--infrared radiation. That's observable (and observed) from space.

So we've got more than the suggestive correlations given to us by paleoclimate studies (valuable on several accounts though the latter are.) We've got a solid physical mechanism, supported by boatloads of observational data over many decades. One can only scratch the surface in a brief comment like this one, but hopefully this is at least suggestive of the breadth and depth of evidence supporting the scientific mainstream on this point.

David Guion from North Carolina on August 26, 2013:

Kudos to anyone who can write about climate change--and respond to dissenting comments--without resorting to name calling and other all too common childishness.

I'm still on the fence about how much I'll attribute climate change to human activity and how much to natural cycles. The "Little Ice Age" lasted from about 1300 to 1800 or 1900. (I've seen both terminal dates, but in articles so short that I don't know the basis for either one.)

I want to know what came before the "Little Ice Age," and whatever cycles measured in centuries came before that. It seems to me that variations that take place over centuries count as climate change, not weather patterns.

That's a trombone in my avitar. Like you, I'm a musician who cares about science and sustainability. It appears that a majority of Americans will not be motivated to do anything about sustainability based on appeals to climate change, but the Georgia Tea Party's intervention on behalf of solar electricity amply proves that plenty of other issues can motivate even climate change rejecters.

I hope you'll permit a link to my blog, Sustainable Green Homes (http://eco.allpurposeguru.com). My target audience is that skeptical majority. I'm looking at hubs as a part of market research to understand that audience better.

I came to a hub on climate change with fear and trembling. It's a good thing I overcame it. There is more here to follow up on than I can possibly finish in one visit. Rated "useful."

Doc Snow (author) from Camden, South Carolina on August 24, 2013:

I'd call it good news! Let me know how it goes.

Of course, you are right about the issue of getting heard. It's a crowded marketplace in the online world.

P. Orin Zack on August 23, 2013:

I'll probably give it a whack myself. It couldn't be much stranger of a challenge than writing that series about life after the demise of the dollar, or the story about the expedition that reached Earth after we'd destroyed the place. The trick is getting people to read the stories.

Doc Snow (author) from Camden, South Carolina on August 23, 2013:

I agree you you, Zack. Some good fictional treatments would be helpful. I'm working on one myself, but I have little gift for writing fiction, so likely it will never be in any kind of shape to see the light of day.

But somebody should have the chops and vision for this!

P. Orin Zack on August 23, 2013:

Another great job, Doc. Unfortunately, it's really hard to get people to feel the seriousness of this slow-motion train wreck because the effects will only be obvious in hindsight. Like going up a mountain to see it, you won't see the mountain because you're standing on it. But after you've gone, and look back at where you've been, you can appreciate the size of it. Maybe we need some popular fiction that is set in that future time when the day-to-day effects of the trending changes in climate are what you wake up to.

Doc Snow (author) from Camden, South Carolina on August 20, 2013:

Ralph, thanks much. That means a lot, coming from you.

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