Wednesday, March 26, 2008

[climate change] shhh - the sceptics might hear

I'm modifying this post from it's original gung ho form:
A chunk of ice the size of the Isle of Man has started to break away from Antarctica in what scientists say is further evidence of a warming climate. Satellite images suggest that part of the ice shelf is disintegrating, and will soon crumble away.

The Wilkins Ice Shelf has been stable for most of the last century, but began retreating in the 1990s. Six ice shelves in the same part of the continent have already been lost, says the British Antarctic Survey (BAS). Professor David Vaughan of BAS said: "Wilkins is the largest ice shelf on the Antarctic Peninsula yet to be threatened.

in the light of further developments. I feel no shame in this - I just want the truth, that's all. Please leave your thoughts on the Wilkin's Ice Shelf and other matters pertaining to GW but in this manner:

1. Let's just try to present the science, not the entrenched positions

2. Let's not ignore the otehr side but try to explain their point away somehow.

3. Let's have some genuine debate on this - where one commnet follows on from the other.

4. Let's steer clear of ad hominem and attack positions with stats.

I genuinely want to know the truth on this matter.


wonkotsane said...

The Wilkins Ice Shelf collapsed in 1998 - unless it reattached itself in the last 10 years and started to fall off again, this is complete bollocks and the BBC is showing its usual biased lazy reporting by publishing "news" that's 10 years old.

Bretwalda Edwin-Higham said...

So you're saying this is a complete fabrication, Wonko?

TBRRob said...

I no longer know if Climate change is real or not.

But it provides the government with a bloody good excuse to raise taxes.

Bretwalda Edwin-Higham said...

Rob - Wonko says it fell off in '98. OK - so it fell off. That's climate change, irreversible or not. Doesn't matter - in our lifetime it is.

Most like the BBC is lazy and lying too and the pic might be a fabrication but the phenomenon seems real enough.

Sean Jeating said...

Well, I did not post on this topic, yet.
To cut it short: The fanatics on both sides will not change what's happening PERIOD

Verlin Martin said...

Climate porn is mine!

I notice you didn't post about the fact that the head of the IPCC agreed that the temp's had plateaued in '98 and were dropping... or the lastest article that showed an enormous DROP of temperature that basically wiped out all the gains.

You still insist on claiming that people are claiming there is NO climate change, yet you do it dishonestly james. People claim there is no MAN-MADE climate change (global warming) and yet you keep pushing the meme for all it's worth.

Ian Appleby said...

More nuclear power is clearly the answer, to boost our economy and make us world leaders, as well as cut emissions (apart from all that tiresome construction, of course). And as John Hutton says, it will boost the economy, create jobs, and make us world leaders (in a technology that we won't be selling to Iran, for one thing). Why this doesn't apply to renewable energy resources I have yet to understand.

Bretwalda Edwin-Higham said...

Even in this comment, Verlin - you contradict yourself. It can't both decrease and increase.

And the temperatures have most certainly not dropped and that's what I meant by bloggers using a raft of counterclaims to try to prove the opposite of the bleedin obvious.

Here the snow line has progressively retreated and mean temperatures have risen to the point where the snow has actually contracted in time.

So your accusation of dishonesty has no basis.

Verlin Martin said...

The dishonesty has basis James, you dishonestly claim that climate change is man-made and that people are claiming there is NO climate change, yet you leave out the part where people say climate change is simply NOT man-made.

Check out the latest winter records in the US, record snowfall, record LOW temps... basically we've had ... weather.

My comment showed that there are articles that show basically everything that HAS happened with the climate. You're whole premise is what MAY happen and yet not one of the climate models has been proven right yet... yet you still flog em.

Bretwalda Edwin-Higham said...

This is plain illogical, Verlin.

yet not one of the climate models has been proven right yet

Yet has not yet occurred so this is simply a circuitous argument and spurious.

What I claom is that climate change is demostrable and it is, even in the Wilkins ice shelf but more exactly in the shift in Russia, for example, where people would shake their heads at the ridiculousness of this so called "debate".

Open your eyes - it is happening.

Now the increase in population, vehicle emissions, industrial pollution etc. - are you seriously trying to say these ahve had no effect? Because the science does not agree with you.

Bretwalda Edwin-Higham said...

Here's one small one:

Analyzing the chemical signatures of black carbon to determine its origin, scientists led by Joseph McConnell of the Desert Research Institute at the Nevada System of Higher Education in Reno report that the amount of soot from industrial emissions surpassed those from forest fires sometime in the 1880s. The trend lasted until the 1950s.

"While enhanced radiative forcing from black carbon in snow results in warming and possibly summer melting on the permanently snow-covered Greenland ice sheet, potential impacts on seasonal snow covers are larger since additional warming leads to earlier exposure of underlying low albedo rock, soil, vegetation, and sea ice," the authors write.

OK - so look at China and it's emissions which have exponentially increased with the growth in China's population.

So - man made.

Just one of the myriad examples.

Verlin Martin said...

"The high-profile collapse of some Antarctica's ice shelves is likely the result of natural current fluctuations, not global warming, says a leading British expert on polar climates.

This surprising finding is supported by analysis of data from the European Space Agency's ERS-1 satellite, according to Duncan Wingham, Professor of Climate Physics at University College London.

"But...but...isn't the ice at least thinning? Aren't we losing Antarctic ice?" At least not in the fashion the alarmists are touting.

The data, measuring changes in ice thickness across the Antarctic ice sheet using the polar orbiting satellite, show areas of growth from snowfall are as common as areas of decline.

"Yeah, but you evil deniers are just cherry picking the data. Your making things seems better than they are. Scumbag." Us "evil deniers" aren't the ones cherry picking anything. It seems YOU alarmists are." here

The science James doesn't disagree with me, the science you pick disagrees with me.

Tom Paine said...

If you have faith in the climate change religion, everything is "evidence". Two or three winters ago, I stood on the street in Moscow at -41 degrees celsius - the same temperature as Antarctica that day. It was the coldest Winter since the 1930's and no-one remarked on it, save to say it was cold. This year the Winter (thank goodness) was mild and everyone says it's global warming.

By all means, let's rely on the science, but if global warmers are entitled to be sceptical of scientists funded by vested interests, AGW sceptics are entitled to doubt those funded by politicians to whom AGW presents the best excuse for total state power since "Scientific Socialism"

Whatever the truth, recycling 10 year old stories will not save us.

Bretwalda Edwin-Higham said...

The science you carefully select to support your point of view, though Verlin, is at odds with the majority of scientific opinion.

But in the end - it's all words.

Bretwalda Edwin-Higham said...

Good points, Tom and Verlin both :)

wonkotsane said...

Hmm, I posted a comment earlier but it appears not to have submitted. Damn it, it was a big comment as well. Crappy work computers. :o)

Here goes ...

So you're saying this is a complete fabrication, Wonko?
Well, the ice shelf collapsed 10 years ago so it's not "hanging by a thread" as claimed.

I no longer know if Climate change is real or not.
Oh, it's happening, there's no denying that. It's been happening for millions of years.

But it provides the government with a bloody good excuse to raise taxes.
Yes it does and here's my conspiracy theory.

The fanatics on both sides will not change what's happening PERIOD
Absolutely. So what's happening?

I'd like to use the analogy of the butterfly flapping its wings in China affecting the weather in South America. I don't think anyone will disagree that cause and effect means that even a butterfly flapping its wings could have knock-on effects that could, in theory, change the weather in South America. From small acorns and all that. However, whilst the the flapping of a butterfly's wings in China could be used to predict the effects of El Nino, it is such a tiny, tiny event that we cannot possibly use that data to figure out what is going to happen because there are so many variables that we cannot work out.

Apply the same theory to climate change data. We have a century's worth of data, most of which wasn't collected in a scientific or controlled manner. At most we have maybe 20 or 30 years of accurate data to work with. The last ice age ended 11,000 years ago and they've been happening for hundreds of millions of years. Put even a century's worth of climate data in the context of the 11,000 years since the last ice age - it's like pissing in the north sea. Just as with the butterfly, the data could be used to predict climate change but it's too little data to accurately predict climate change.

Looking back over recent history, there have been rises and decreases in temperature. There was the Medieval Warm Period, for existence, which saw the average temperature of the North Atlantic region (ie. Europe, Greenland and North America) rise by about one degree. There's a list of recent major climate changes on Wikipedia.

The argument isn't won and there is no consensus amongst the scientific community. The guy who is peddling this story was the lead author of the IPPC report on climate change, the report being used to justify the current raft of taxation and restrictive measures. The fact that this "news" has exposed him as a liar and a fraud, coupled with the fact that several scientists left the study because they said it was biased and predetermined, must surely bring the whole IPPC report into question.

CherryPie said...

I should imagine that this press release dated yesterday is where the BBC got their information from:

National Snow & Ice Data Center

British Antarctic Survey

That satellite photographs in the first link are worth a look.

Welshcakes Limoncello said...

Everybody is talking about the "tempo pazzo" [mad weather] here and a student of mine who is an organic farmer lost many crops in Monday's unusual storms.

Anonymous said...

I'm not sure where wonkotsane got the impression that the entire Wilkins Ice Shelf collapsed in 1998. The shelf, which had been stable for about a century, began to weaken in the 1980s, and in 1998, PART of the shelf, along the northwestern edge, significantly weakened and ultimately collapsed. This most recent event is a new collapse of significant size in another part of the Wilkins Ice Sheet. There's no contradiction.

Several of the commenters don't understand the difference between weather and climate. "Global warming" refers to the increased energy retained because of the rapid build up in CO2. This results in an AVERAGE temperature increase. It also results in a massive amount of energy in the atmosphere, which is essentially a fluid system. The system sloshes and ebbs and flows - meaning weather continues to fluctuate locally. A cold winter doesn't negate global warming/climate change. Climate models have long predicted that parts of the globe would respond to the AVERAGE temperature increase in different ways - some cooler, some dryer, some wetter.

If any of these commenters are interested in a civil discussion of global warming and climate change, I'm happy to oblige.

CherryPie said...

"I'm not sure where wonkotsane got the impression that the entire Wilkins Ice Shelf collapsed in 1998. The shelf, which had been stable for about a century, began to weaken in the 1980s, and in 1998, PART of the shelf, along the northwestern edge, significantly weakened and ultimately collapsed. This most recent event is a new collapse of significant size in another part of the Wilkins Ice Sheet. There's no contradiction."

I agree, I posted the links with the satellite pictures to show that.

Anonymous said...

In response to the comment suggesting that "the globe has cooled since 1998", I advise that that "result" relies on incredibly skewed statistical analysis (i.e., incorrect analyses). Essentially, one anomalously warm month during 1998 was being used as the single starting point by which to compare temperatures from later dates, a sophomoric attempt at determining a statistical trend. Actually, this "argument" is an old one and has been succinctly explained and refuted her if anyone is interested in seeing some plots:

Anonymous said...

James, if you will, delete my second attempt at relaying this since it's useless.

The url is as follows, where I have put a return in the middle:

That whole site is excellent at refuting many of the circulated and recirculated attempts to explain away human-caused global warming.

Bretwalda Edwin-Higham said...

I think, in the end, once the rhetoric is finished, it's just a case of reading, reading and reading until we can make some sense of it.

Bretwalda Edwin-Higham said...

If any of these commenters are interested in a civil discussion of global warming and climate change, I'm happy to oblige.

This would be nice and I think I might start this off. My plan is to run the most telling arguments on both sides in the post but the discussion would follow strict guidelines of being fact oriented in the comments section. Then I'd link to this high in the sidebar and invite people to participate.

I'll try to get this running today.

wonkotsane said...

The Register.

Bretwalda Edwin-Higham said...

Gee whiz, I just looked at Wonko's link and I'm as confused as ever.

OK - using this as the jumping off point, I'm going to add to the post then invite people like Verlin, DK and Steve Green to put in and I'd like those who say it is happening to do so too.

I want to see the science on this because it seems that we're getting two "sciences".

wonkotsane said...

The Wilkins Ice Shelf is a bad example because it's part of a peninsular that has a different climate to the rest of the continent. Like the professor in that link says, if you look at data for the whole continent (not just the bit that conveninently has a different climate) then the whole change is balanced out and it is actually getting colder at the south pole. The Wilkins Ice Shelf wouldn't be used by a serious or unbiased climatologist because it's an anomaly, like Greenland. Both the Wilkins Ice Shelf and Greenland are red herrings, they're not representative of the arctic or antarctic climate or the changes therein.

Don't forget, there's more ice and permafrost in Greenland than there was 2,000 years ago when the Vikings discovered it and 1,000 years ago during the Medieval Warm Period. What caused that warming and cooling? It wasn't human activity then so why is it human activity now?

Daily Referendum said...


I hope This helps.

Daily Referendum said...


And this is the CV of the guy who wrote the article I've linked to above.

Anonymous said...

In response to wonkotsane's comment that the Antarctic Peninsula has a different
climate than the rest of the continent, I actually submit that it is the other way
around. Recent studies have shown that as a result of the ozone hole, radiative
impacts have impacted the windflow at the surface, resulting in an increased
circulation around the vortex over the eastern Peninsula. Vortex circulation is
a circular flow around the poles that, when strong, serves as a barrier between
mixing polar air and warmer middle latitude air. As a result of this increased
isolation, the eastern Antarctic has been isolated from the warming trend that has
impacted the rest of the Antarctic (about 3 degrees over the last 50 years).
If you are interested in the science, here is the abstract to the paper in Science
that discusses this (this is actually fairly old – this is a well-known, very
expected phenomenon among climate scientists – that parts of Antarctica will
respond to global warming/climate change with increased snowfall, parts will
exhibit no warming, and parts will warm. (It'd also discussed in the IPCC report)

Here is an excellent discussion from some climate scientists on this topic:

(again with a return in the middle of the url. Please don't let that discourage
you from reading their discussion. They know what they are talking about).

Anonymous said...

Here is the link to the discussion of regional impacts on the Antarctic by the climate scientists at Real Climate. (I am hoping I have solved my issues with using html).

Some soundbites from it:
"...a cold Antarctica is just what calculations predict… and have predicted for the past quarter century."

"Bottom line: A cold Antarctica and Southern Ocean do not contradict our models of global warming. For a long time the models have predicted just that."


James Lovelock says GW is happening and we can't stop it - but coal burning produces particles that partly offset global warming by reducing the amount of sunlight reaching us.

I think the terrible winter immediately after WW2 may have been because of the reduction in military-industrial activity. Clean air has its consequences.

On the other hand, Dr William Gray predicts global cooling within 10 years:

Of course, he's talking about 10 years and Lovelock about 40. The latter is not of an age to worry about the personal consequences of his prediction.

If we're to believe the scientists, the Earth has had periods when there was no ice, and periods when the entire globe was encased in ice. Not sure I quite buy the latter.

Life is resilient - GW probably won't be the end of the world; but it might be the end of us, or most of us, or at least our normal life as it has been for the last generation or two.

Should we burn more coal? Or leave that to the Chinese?

Anonymous said...

"Life is resilient - GW probably won't be the end of the world; but it might be the end of us, or most of us, or at least our normal life as it has been for the last generation or two."

Personally, I agree with you. The earth WILL eventually recover from this experiment and life will continue in one form or another. The tricky part is whether you are interested in keeping the environment comfortable for our particular species in the meantime. (The timeline for recovery of the excess carbon back into oceanic or groun stores, by the way, is tens of thousands of years)

I am one of the scientists you don't whether to believe or not :-), and my goal in my research career is to keep the science entirely separate from politics and entirely separate from my personal beliefs on the societal impacts of climate change. They are fundamentally very different topics. Part of the problem with the wave of what many call "denialists" is that there is the tendency to believe that science *is* political, and if that is what one truly believes, then it is understandable why there is such violent skepticism about the science behind GW. I, however, have not seen any marriage between the two (politics and earth science) in my experience. That implication comes from the media, perhaps. It's sad, because it really isn't there.


Hi, Anon: It's the ENTIRELY encased in ice bit I find hard to accept - there's some still-surviving ancient plant species that would have died out, aren't there? It is cycads, or bromeliads? The graphics of BBC Horizon (etc) programmes are so good that they sort of brook no contradiction - stun the critical imagination. But I'm certainly not an Ice Age denier!

I understand that a real worry for scientists and the rest of us is the ocean-depth-dissolved CO2 that could come out cataclysmically if the seas warm sufficiently.

Do you think Lovelock is right - that it won't make any difference now whether we knit lentils in the dark, or drive coal-powered 4x4s?


Oh, and isn't it the case that the sun's radiation reaching us, has varied over time?

And what about Fred Hoyle's idea of interstellar dust clouds?

Both these would add further variables to the mixture.

Anonymous said...


I honestly don't know about the entire earth being encased in ice. From the little I know, it's suggested to have happened a couple of times, the most recent at 600 million years ago, but there's still some debate going on about the full extent of it.

Re: Lovelock. This is my personal opinion. I think his Gaia hypothesis is a nice way of looking at the earth in an almost "spiritual" way (I'm using the word spiritual loosely because I can't think of a better descriptor). As for his take on global warming, I think he represents an extreme point of view. The only thing we can say conclusively is that the average temperature is warming, that it is mostly due to the build up of CO2 and other types of warming gases, and that as a result, the climate will be different. Our models give us some good ideas (based in science) as to what we think some of those changes will be, but the full extent of them cannot be conclusively predicted. Lovelock has a fairly negative view of things...may be right, may not be. My feeling is that most scientists are not that negative wrt the outlook for longterm sustainability of the human species.

Anonymous said...

Absolutely the sun's radiance has varied over time, and there are some beautiful plots that show a very close correlation between the average earth's temperature and solar output. Many of these plots have been used to suggest that the observed warming is natural, rather than human-induced. However, if you are sure to extend the timeline of these plots to include the last 30-50 years, it becomes evident that there is a sharp departure in that correlation at that point, with the temperature trending upwards, and the solar output remaining fairly constant.
Take a look at the plots and discussion in this post for a more full explanation.


Interesting info, Anon. And it seems I was thinking of methane, not CO2:

... though another old article suggests an unexpected capacity of the oceans to absorb CO2:

Now then, off to break open my fridge gases, switch on all the lights and turn up the central heating...

Bretwalda Edwin-Higham said...

Reading, reading.