Stop calling me a climate skeptic just because I don’t believe in alarmism!

*scroll DOWN to skip to the summary*

I’m REALLY getting tired of so many friends and family calling me a global warming skeptic because 1. I am NOT a global warming skeptic and 2.  It distracts from the important debate over warming which is how much it will impact our lives.    There are really only two kinds of Global Warming Skeptics.  The first challenge the fact that the earth, on average, has been warming up a bit.   These folks are generally just stupid or stupidly adhering to the rants of people who are stupid, like Glenn Beck.    The earth is, on average over the last century, warming up.      Not much mind you – most estimates put the warming in the range of a degree C over the last century,  but clearly the earth is warming up a bit.

There is a second kind of global warming skeptic who believes that humans are not the cause of the observed warming.    FYI my misguided friends …  I am NOT in that camp either!     However a lot of bright folks are in that camp and are often scientifically challenging the idea that the observed warming of the last century is caused by human generated greenhouse gasses  or “GHCs”.   CO2 is usually cited as the main GHC culprit but there are several others like methane that are likely to play a role in observed warming.   GHCs are considered the main cause of the small observed warming if, like me, you believe the warming is caused by human activity.    So, I’m not THAT kind of skeptic either!   Some excellent skeptical discussion of warming is at  Climate Audit, the smartest of the “skeptic” blogs, and the counterpoint to Real Climate, the smartest of the blogs that discuss the science behind global warming.   Several key players in the Climate Debate post at RealClimate, many are distinuished NASA scientists.    I’d urge caution interpreting information from other places and even from these “very smart” blogs.   The comments at all blogs tend to be much more biased (often to the point of blatant stupidity) than the posts, which even at advocacy blogs are often somewhat informative  if you keep away from the personal or ego-driven junk.

Many blogs in the warming discussion take the form of advocating either for alarmism or skepticism rather than trying to review the science and the logical actions suggested by that science.   I’m particularly not fond of Joe Romm’s ridiculous  “Climate Progress” which is mostly a constant attack on even well-informed skepticism and dissent from the climate alarmist “party line”.   He seems to immediately ban  even well reasoned dissenters from the comments, leaving … a fools pool of alarmist nonsense and political advocacy.     Anthony Watts “Watts Up With That” is, IMHO, smarter and far more balanced than Climate Progress but is still pretty darn “skeptical”, tending to feature information that supports a skeptical view rather than promoting a more balanced perspective.

Summary:   I AM NOT A DAMN Climate SKEPTIC! However I am not worried much about global warming.  It’s impact so far has been trivial and it appears it will remain trivial, especially when we compare the likely impacts with current ongoing catastrophic conditions in much of the developing world, where water, disease, and poverty run rampant.   Let’s fix that stuff first, since we can actually have an impact in that arena, and fast.

P.S.  No, I have NOT changed my view about this, you just weren’t listening …   See?

Thank you Nathan Myhrvold!

I’ve detailed some of my misadventures at Real, the sometimes insightful but usually activism-masquerading-as science water cooler for folks who buy the notion that human-caused global warming (aka “AGW”) is on a rampage that is increasingly likely to end with the destruction of global civilization as we know it.

My greatest frustration at RealClimate is the bizarre  comment moderation policy, which effectively squelches most informed dissent in favor of “supportive” comments from the regulars.    My reasonable comments have so often been zapped out that I don’t post there anymore – it’s a waste of my time (and theirs!) to compose a thoughtful reply only to have it reviewed by a climate scientist who takes some offense by people less interested in parroting the party line than questioning some of the nuanced, globally warmed interpretations of proxy data.

But I digress…

Enter Nathan Myhrvold and the fun new book “SuperFreakonomics”, which was  the subject of RealClimate’s spurious attack piece of the week by Raypierre:

The problem wasn’t necessarily that you talked to the wrong experts or talked to too few of them. The problem was that you failed to do the most elementary thinking needed to see if what they were saying (or what you thought they were saying) in fact made any sense.  If you were stupid, it wouldn’t be so bad to have messed up such elementary reasoning, but I don’t by any means think you are stupid.

Levitt’s reply

Now, it’s one thing to make a case that a bunch of whacky bloggers or frothing-at-the-mouth fools like Glenn Beck don’t understand the issues surrounding Global Warming, but it is ridiculous to make this case against a guy like Myhrvold who has both the business credentials and academic ones to suggest he’s very well informed.  He was Microsoft’s Chief Tech Officer and he is the founder of the globally respected “Intellectual Ventures” think tank.   He’s also got the academic chops to debate these issues thoughfully:  Master’s degrees in Geophysics/Space Physics and in Mathematical Economics and a Ph.D. in  Mathematical Physics.

Here’s Myhrvold’s reply which includes this real nugget of wisdom:

One of the saddest things for me about climate science is how political it has become. Science works by having an open dialog that ultimately converges on the truth, for the common benefit of everyone. Most scientific fields enjoy this free flow of ideas.

The good news is that some good scientists who do NOT have a political agenda are (finally) starting to speak out forcefully when attacked by those who do.   The end game is already obvious because reason tends to prevail over ranting.  We should soon soon see the alarmist rhetoric die down in favor of real discussion of real issues, and as we do let’s tip our hats to Nathan and others who are willing to simply state the obvious, regardless of the political implications of doing that.

Guardian UK Climate Changers

In January the Guardian UK listed fifty people who can help save the planet.   I was very encouraged to see Bjorn Lomborg on this list as he’s one of the few well informed and rational voices in the global warming debate.   Lomborg simple, obvious, and common sense argument is that we are failing to prioritize our time and treasure as we deal with global challenges like Global Warming, health, and poverty.   He’d like to see us devote more resources to the most pressing problems and fewer to the least pressing, suggesting that although Global Warming will cause problems it is very unlikely that catastrophe is looming.

Perhaps ironically the next person on the list is Climatologist Gavin Schmidt from the blog -my favorite source for spirited debate about Climate Change.    Gavin is one of several well connected scientists who participate regularly at that blog along with a group of moderately informed yet rabid commenters who are very quick to attack as “denialists” blog participants who suggest any deparature from the prevailing partly line on climate change.    A friend noted to me recently that climate change has become the new religion of the inquisition, where heretics are verbally burned at the stake – usually by those who are not particularly well informed – for suggesting even obvious problems such as the many defects in current global climate computer models.     

As somebody trained in science, my biggest concern remains the reluctance (refusal?) of climate scientists to define their work in ways that allow much if any falsifiability – they key mainstay of all modern science.   You’ll be very hard pressed to find many climate modellers say “if we find [insert any measurable phenomenon here], then our assumptions about warming are misguided”.     Unlike most conventional science where falsifiabilty is king and politics is left at the door, the climate community has a political component that is coloring the perception of the scientists.    I rarely hear scientists challenge the hysterical assertions that climate change will lead to catastrophic conditions soon.   Since the science does not suggest we have catastrophe looming, why this failure to comment more thoroughly and responsibly on the issue?    I think most of this is the assumption that reducing pollution is so important it’s OK to mislead the public into thinking warming catastrophes are looming when in fact they are not.   Watch “An Inconvenient Truth”, a movie largely supported as factual by the climate community and then read the critiques of the film’s examples.   

Although many in the climate field bristle at the notion that they have a vested interest in “hype” thanks to over $5,000,000,000 in annual grants for climate reasearch, but clearly feeding your kids plays a role in most human opinions and scientific opinion is no exception to this.    

The list *should* include Steve McIntyre, creator of the blog, created in some ways to foil the dramatic level of omission of relevant information and participation that characterizes    MyIntyre is a mathematician and amateur scientist who is making quite a name for himself by replicating tree ring studies and challenging some questionable practices in the climate change community. 

From the Guardian:
Bjørn Lomborg

Bjorn Lomborg Bjørn Lomborg, 42, has become an essential check and balance to runaway environmental excitement. In 2004, the Dane made his name as a green contrarian with his bestselling book The Skeptical Environmentalist, and outraged scientists and green groups around the world by arguing that many claims about global warming, overpopulation, energy resources, deforestation, species loss and water shortages are not supported by analysis. He was accused of scientific dishonesty, but cleared his name. He doesn’t dispute the science of climate change, but questions the priority it is given. He may look increasingly out of step, but Lomborg is one of the few academics prepared to challenge the consensus with credible data.

Gavin Schmidt

Gavin Schmidt, 38 and British, is a climate modeller at the Nasa Goddard Institute for Space Studies in New York. He founded with colleagues in 2004. Offering “climate science from climate scientists”, the site has quickly become a must-read for interested amateurs, and a perfect foil to both the climate sceptic misinformation that saturates sections of the web and the overexcitement of the claims of some environmentalists. Unapologetically combative, technical and high-brow, the site and its contributors – essentially blogging in their spare time – nail the myth that scientists struggle to communicate their work. Whenever a major flaw is pointed out in the global consensus on climate change, or new evidence is discovered to blame it on the sun, it is always worth checking RealClimate. The site has a policy of not getting dragged into the political or economic aspects of science, but it’s fairly easy to guess which side it’s on.

Update to make my case:  Realclimate’s response to the new Hurricane study that suggests that the link between Hurricanes and Global Warming has been exaggerated shows how  – to my way of thinking – they have little if any interest in falsifiability.  RC seems to frequently highlight even anecdotal evidence supporting their view but critically rejects even well researched, peer reviewed studies that suggest things they don’t want to hear.   This rejecting the alternative hypothesis because it does not suit your beliefs science … or is it religion?