Freeman Dyson: Getting Warmed Up

Here are a couple of Youtube videos with Freeman Dyson talking about Global Warming mania.

He starts out in the first video (on the left) talking about vegetation. He says you can't do good science without good data. He notes that the data on vegetation is sparse (as in almost totally non-existant). The money went into computer models instead of data gathering. It figures. Computers are sexy. Electronic wind vanes and anemometers are not. He also notes that the carbon in vegetation dwarfs the carbon in the atmosphere.

In the second video he says the real problem is not CO2 induced global warming, but CO2 induced stratosphere cooling which may lead to bigger ozone holes.

He ends with the fact that the lowest cost way to control CO2 in the atmosphere is not by controlling energy production and use, but by planting or cutting down plants. He suggests more irrigation. For that we are going to need cheap fresh water. Here is one way we might get it: Bussard Fusion Reactor.

H/T Lubos Motl

Cross Posted at The Astute Bloggers

Welcome Instapundit readers.

posted by Simon on 06.04.07 at 04:55 PM


Thanks for making these videos available.

My take:

Video 1: Boiled down, what he's saying is that we don't know how much C-O2 is or might be made to be absorbed into the vegetation, so we can't be sure about the detailed climate calculations.

My perspective: I'm interested in two things: How much the average temperature goes up, and how this affects genetic diversity in the biosphere. What we've observed so far is that about 50% of the C-O2 produced from fossil fuels has ended up in the atmosphere. It has been assumed that the other 50% has been absorbed into the ocean, but maybe Dyson has a point and some of it goes into vegetation. In any case, unless you think that more of it can be persuaded to stay out of the atmosphere, we still have a problem, because the enhanced greenhouse effect will still be obtained by the increase in atmospheric C-O2. (And, by the way, the calculation of the enhanced greenhouse effect is done without computers!)

Video 2: So now Dyson is suggesting two things:
- Maybe the real problem is the cooling of the stratosphere => formation of ice crystals => further depletion of ozone.
My reaction: I don't know enough chemistry to know if this is an issue. But the true GW-deniers (Singer, McKitrick, and others) won't thank him for that point.

- Maybe we can get vegetation to take all this nasty C-O2 out of the air for us, instead of our having to avoid putting it into the air by restricting our burning of fossil fuels.
My reaction: I wouldn't have anything against this idea - but I'd find it a lot more credible if it were proposed or supported by someone who had more involvement in biology. (The closest I've ever heard of Dyson getting into biology is his proposing a highly speculative theory for the initiation of life - something that he himself called "a theory for a theory".) We currently produce by fossil-fuel combustion something on the order of 7 Gton/yr of carbon, with deforestation producing another 2 Gton/yr; RealClimate estimates that vegetation takes up 2.5 Gton/yr. So if we could stop deforesting and grow vegetation at the rate of 7 Gton/yr instead of 2.5, we would be fine.

Does anybody have any idea of the impact of growing three times as much vegetation (by mass)? And by the way, you're not allowed to count growing vegetation that you harvest: If you burn the stuff, it releases the C-O2 back into the atmosphere, so it doesn't count. Do we have a botanist or agriculturalist in the house?

Neal J. King   ·  June 4, 2007 9:50 PM

My take on it Dyson is accuarate when he says that global surface temperature is a fiction.
How exactly is co2 warming the atmosphere? Where can we point to this warming? The satellite data, which is the only data that is reliable, shows the lower tropospheric temperature trend has been minus 0.04 degrees C/decade.
The satellite temperature measurements are accurate to within three one-hundredths of a degree Centigrade (0.03 C) when compared to ground-launched balloons taking measurements of the same region of the atmosphere at the same time.
Global warming is crap, a hoax, or as Dyson said a fiction.

Papertiger   ·  June 5, 2007 2:48 PM

Here is an example of the reason why there is no agreement between the surface temperature record and the satellite temperature record.
The thing at the top of that pole, which is right next to a building framed with shrubbery, and right next to a sidewalk and asphalt parking lot, is one of the surface temperature measuring stations.
This particular one is in Woodland Ca. and it is rated as a rural temperature probe, subject to a rural cooling "correction".

Papertiger   ·  June 5, 2007 3:01 PM

The satellite data, which is the only data that is reliable, shows the lower tropospheric temperature trend has been minus 0.04 degrees C/decade.

You are repeating stale and incorrect information.

There was some satellite data that was purported to show this, but it ended up being due to bad analysis of the raw data. If I recall correctly, they had incorrectly compensated for the changing altitude of the satellite as its orbit decayed. When the data was properly analyzed, the putative temperature decline went away.

This doesn't prevent this chestnut from continuing to show up on denialist misinformation sites, though.

Paul Dietz   ·  June 5, 2007 3:14 PM

Geneticly speaking, my dog molts. That is, he loses the undercoat of hair as the season requires. I imagine that most mammals have a built in temperature regulating mechanism. Reptiles have a more immediate culping mechanism, ie their blood stays at the ambiant temperature of their environment.
Although from the satellite temperature record, I doubt they will be using their built in culping mechanisms much.

Papertiger   ·  June 5, 2007 3:14 PM


I take it you are a Global Cooling denialist.

M. Simon   ·  June 5, 2007 3:22 PM

I take it you are a Global Cooling denialist.

Since the evidence is that the world is now warming (at least, if you don't live up in the stratosphere), then, yes, I do deny that.

I'm also a flat earth denialist.

Paul Dietz   ·  June 5, 2007 3:26 PM

You lost me on that last point Papertiger. Are you saying that with the .04 degree drop in temperature, mammals won't have to shed their winter coats in the summer anymore? I assume you're joking but I don't get it.

Paul, do you have a link explaining the situation the satellite data you refer to in your post?

tim maguire   ·  June 5, 2007 3:32 PM

I think we have here proof positive that denialism is a cultural phenomenon.

M. Simon   ·  June 5, 2007 3:33 PM

Paul, do you have a link explaining the situation the satellite data you refer to in your post?

See this entry at Real Climate and follow the links and references.

Paul Dietz   ·  June 5, 2007 3:41 PM

I might point out that Dr. Dyson doesn't buy modern evolutionary theory. Listening to a scientist who is speaking outside of his area of expertise and expecting a good assesment of that science is worthless, depending of him for a opinion is nothing but an appeal to authority.

John Sully   ·  June 5, 2007 4:26 PM

Thanks Paul. I'll check it out.

tim maguire   ·  June 5, 2007 4:26 PM

I might point out that Dr. Dyson doesn't buy modern evolutionary theory.

I find that rather difficult to believe. Perhaps you could back up that statement with some evidence?

Paul Dietz   ·  June 5, 2007 4:52 PM

We don't know... we "believe"!

We "Believe" that the Earth is warming,

We "Believe" that the Sun isn't involved,

We "Believe" that it's 'man's fault' when the evidence presented says on 5% of the CO2 comes from man,

We "Believe" that it's because of plant nurturing CO2 even though CO2 is probably a symptom of, and not a cause of, warming,

We "Believe" that warmth is bad,

We "Believe" that we have to act now,

We "Believe" that technology will stop...
now... leaving us defenseless when disaster strikes in 100 years,

We "Believe" that this time there will be catastrophic consequences when the archeological record says there were not fires-famine-floods when ocean front property in Greenland was... Green.

We "Believe" in the UN,

We "Believe" that Al Gore isn't a profiteering liar.

DANEgerus   ·  June 5, 2007 5:27 PM

Dyson holds a PhD in no field at all, and so by modern standards he has no "area of expertise;" Of course, he did synthesize and reduce to practice the Feynman/Schwinger/Tomonaga solutions to the renormalization problems of quantum electrodynamics, so maybe we can cut him some slack there. Nor is his work on CO2 some recent enthusiasm--as the video makes clear, he has been studying this topic for decades, long before it was fashionable.

Within the scientific community, Dyson is generally respected for both his analytical brilliance and his judgment/wisdom. (And I note that as someone who disagrees with many of his political and social views.) He is the farthest thing imaginable from a crank or crackpot or dilettante--when he moves into an area, he identifies the best work he can find, the smartest people to work with, etc., and goes from there.

I strongly recommend his popular books--Disturbing the Universe, Infinite in all Directions, and Eros and Gaia particularly--for both illumination and entertainment on a range of topics (not too much on CO2, though). Glieck's biography of Feynman has some good stuff about Dyson's role in developing QED.

srp   ·  June 5, 2007 5:31 PM

The video appears to be eight years old; Dr. (Alvin) Weinberg died last year at 91 years old.

By the way, it's a little dishonest to say "the cooling disappeared" without pointing out that substantial warming did NOT appear. Christy and Spencer, the NASA/GHCC scientists analyzing the MSU satellite data, failed to account properly for north-south drift and diurnal oscillations in the satellites, but the scientists who found that error failed to take into account the east-west drift of the satellites (duh!). Accounting for ALL the drift and oscillations changed the results from a statistically-insignificant cooling to a very slight warming much smaller than the (biased) surface observations.

Mike   ·  June 5, 2007 5:47 PM

Papertiger & tim maguire:

Satellite data on Lower Tropospheric Temperature trends
Here is a report from the U.S. Climate Change Science Program, a joint program funded by over 11 federal agencies, including NSF, NASA, NIST, DoD, and � notably � Department of Energy (DoE). Fig. 1 on page 8 shows pretty convincing upward trends for surface, lower troposphere, and mid-troposphere to lower stratosphere; and the expected cooling for lower stratosphere. It�s a noisy signal, but the trend is clear.

The report was released April 2006. Here is the abstract (emphasis added): �Previously reported discrepancies between the amount of warming near the surface and higher in the atmosphere have been used to challenge the reliability of climate models and the reality of human-induced global warming. Specifically, surface data showed substantial global-average warming, while early versions of satellite and radiosonde data showed little or no warming above the surface. This significant discrepancy no longer exists because errors in the satellite and radiosonde data have been identified and corrected. New data sets have also been developed that do not show such discrepancies.

This Synthesis and Assessment Product is an important revision to the conclusions of earlier reports from the U.S. National Research Council and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. For recent decades, all current atmospheric data sets now show global-average warming that is similar to the surface warming. While these data are consistent with the results from climate models at the global scale, discrepancies in the tropics remain to be resolved. Nevertheless, the most recent observational and model evidence has increased confidence in our understanding of observed climatic changes and their causes.�

Neal J. King   ·  June 5, 2007 7:13 PM


Urban Heat effect? No.
Fig. 3.6 on page 65 of the same report shows temperature trends at all these levels as a function of location on the globe. You can see that its heating up a lot over many areas in the northern hemisphere that dont have any big cities: northern Canada and Alaska, for instance. And also over some ocean areas, too.

And, as Paul Dietz pointed out, there is no discrepancy any more between surface and lower-tropospheric temperature trends, as you can see in the 2nd-half of the first paragraph of the abstract.

(I'm going to try again with the URL: )

Neal J. King   ·  June 5, 2007 7:20 PM


Coping with temperature difference
What youre talking about will get a dog through the day, but if it becomes the usual situation, it does mean that hes not optimally fit for the environment. For dogs, it doesnt matter much, because theyre pets and people will take care of them anyway. But for animals that are competing with others to survive, even a small disadvantage can doom the species.

In North America, many of the pine forests are in trouble because the pine beetles arent dying in winter, as they used to. So wake up fresh and hungry right at the beginning of spring, and theyre doing considerable damage. Similarly, it seems that in many areas, the bears are no longer hibernating through the winter. What is that going to do to them long-term? I dont think anyone knows. But my guess is that were looking at a reshuffling of the deck, and there will be new winners and new losers. But in the short term (about 1 million years), that means tremendous loss of species.

Neal J. King   ·  June 5, 2007 7:25 PM

John Sully,

on Freeman Dyson
- I have a tremendous amount of respect for Dyson. Hes done great work in Quantum Electrodynamics, and has used his rather safe position at the Institute for Advanced Study to venture into a whole lot of other areas. Its fair to say that his success in other areas has been more mixed but what the hell, somebody should try to break boundaries some time.
- I do not think it is reasonable to say that he simply doesnt believe in evolution. Looking an article he wrote called The Darwinian Interlude, it seems that he is saying that humans will take over the development of new genetic varieties through genomic engineering.
- However, I wont accept a conclusion just because its from Dyson. (Or from anyone else, for that matter.) My feeling is that he does suffer a bit from what Murray Gell-Mann referred to as the English-scientist disease: needing to be clever more than needing to be right. There are some folks who are worse this way (Hoyle comes to mind), but Dyson strikes me as a contrarian by nature. It always makes him entertaining, but it doesnt always make him right. Whats good is that he does his thinking in front of you, so you can see why he makes his choice - and be free to make your own.

Neal J. King   ·  June 5, 2007 7:28 PM

"The Darwinian Interlude" can be found here:

(These HTML tags are just not working for me today.)

Neal J. King   ·  June 5, 2007 7:34 PM

We "Believe" that the Earth is warming,

That's because the evidence says it is. Generally, we believe well-founded evidence.

Unless, that is, you're a global warming denialist. Then you look for any scrap of contrary data, accept that data uncritically (even after it has been trashed in the literature), and toss out the bulk of the data that doesn't support your preconceptions.

We "Believe" that it's 'man's fault' when the evidence presented says on 5% of the CO2 comes from man,

And here's a Grade A example of that process at work. That little factoid has a truth level on par with Flat Earth geology. The real situation is that the current CO2 increase is entirely anthropogenic, and not even the oil companies deny this. Were it not for CO2 being released by fossil fuel combustion, the global atmospheric CO2 level would be declining right now.

Paul Dietz   ·  June 5, 2007 7:37 PM


Just a few points:
-Even the scientists among the skeptics (Lindzen, Singer) have given up saying GW is not happening. Now they want to shift the blame.
- The Sun is always involved; but when the variation in solar luminosity has been only 0.1% over the last 19 years (almost 2 of the 11-year cycles), its variation cannot explain very much of what we�ve been seeing.
- What counts, wrt causing increased temperature, must be a change in something. Most of the C-O2 fluxes are just circulation: ocean to atmosphere, atmosphere to ocean, atmosphere to plants, animals to atmosphere: this doesn�t cause a build-up. What increases the amount of C-O2 are: burning of fossil fuels, and volcanic activity. However, volcanic activity for the world, on an annual basis, produces 1/134 of the C-O2 produced by combustion of fossil fuels: see the USGS website
- In the past, C-O2 has indeed been merely a feedback loop to increased temperature: When temperature increased, C-O2 would be driven out of the oceans and frozen ground, and atmospheric C-O2 would increase; and this additional C-O2 would also increase the temperature. What is new under the sun is that humans are now able to increase the C-O2 level without waiting for the temperature to increase.
- No, we don�t need to have the opinion that warmth is bad. The concern is really that the change in climate is happening much too fast for many of our flora & fauna to keep up with it. Many species will die out without descendants, and the genetic diversity of the planet will be greatly reduced.
- If we expect to forestall the worst, we do need to get moving. Even after we stop, there will be a few decades of heating in front of us, as the oceans catch up.
- We need to continue to work on technology, but we shouldn�t ignore what we can do now; nor should we ignore what is happening right now.
- I don�t think Greenland was ever much greener than today. I can show you a picture of Erik the Red�s farm (
it still looks farm-able.
- For a good article on what it means for a scientist to say, �I believe that��, I can refer you to this article (

Neal J. King   ·  June 5, 2007 7:40 PM

M. Simon,

Would it be possible for you to install the "preview" capability for posters to this site? It would really be great to be able to check that everything is processing correctly before having the post become final.

Your other two sites allow preview.

Neal J. King   ·  June 5, 2007 7:43 PM

Paul said You are repeating stale and incorrect information.

Stale? How could that be when it is so well hidden by the media, google, and consensus mongers at large?
At any rate the satellite record has not been withdrawn or seriously challenged in a substantial way. If you check the NOAA satellite data on their website, you will find the same record, -0.04 degrees Celsius/per decade.

Papertiger   ·  June 5, 2007 8:32 PM


The site is Eric's so I will ask him.

It may not be possible with the software used to run the site.

I fixed one of your urls. There were some other errors in that post, but i didn't fix them because I'm unsure of what you intended.

M. Simon   ·  June 5, 2007 8:44 PM

Neal said "a joint program funded by over 11 federal agencies, including NSF, NASA, NIST, DoD, and notably Department of Energy (DoE)."
Sounds political. It's fairly standard practice in forums such as this that when a person links to a 3 or 4 hundred page document, that they give a line or two showing the more specific and pertinent information.
I'll save myself from wading through your document delivered by committee by just restating the obvious, that intergovernmental bureaucracies exist only to continue their existence.

Papertiger   ·  June 5, 2007 9:03 PM


The fact that DoE signed onto it is important: I would not expect the Department of Energy to lightly support a scientific study that verifies that the global warming situation is really happening - particularly not in the Bush administration.

The people that worked on the study were mostly from NOAA, according to their by-lines.

The document is only 180 pages long, I've given you the abstract which states the conclusion quite baldly, and there are only a few figures to look at. Go ahead, download it and look at the graphs: the tropospheric temperature is going up, just as it would be expected to. It will only take 10 minutes, at the outside.

Neal J. King   ·  June 5, 2007 9:33 PM

Your repeated use of the term 'denialist' smacks of politics not science. Your attempt to paint those who disagree with you as luddited by constantly associating those who disagree with you backs this up.

Rather than having a discussion on the merits of the existence of human-caused climate change, you want to insult and silence the opposition.

The climate of the earth has been constantly changing, no one denies that. The current discussion should be centered around questions like 'Are our models really accurate enough to make any useful predictions?'. 'Do we really know how much, if any contribution man makes to changes in the climate?', 'Can we really say anything about what the result of those changes will be?', 'Is there anything we can realistically do about it?'

'The sky is falling' act is obscuring the real science, politicizing the topic and causing the true believers to become more Orwellian every day.

What next? Trials for anyone who disagrees with the man-made global warming gospel? Wait, that's already been proposed.

The science is far from settled, as much as many would like to belive. It may be the popular opinion right now, but someone here keeps pointing out, a flat earth was the prevailing opinion at one point, too.

Perhaps the folks who take the politically-charged, 'consensus' side are the flat earthers. After all, they had all most of the scientific opinion on their side and treated the 'deniers' as heretics in their day.

tom   ·  June 6, 2007 7:38 AM

At any rate the satellite record has not been withdrawn or seriously challenged in a substantial way.

Stop lying, please. Gross errors in the construction of the satellite dataset were found, and when the errors were corrected the claimed discrepancy disappeared. You've even been told that in these comments, are you unable to read?

Your repeated use of the term 'denialist' smacks of politics not science.

If the pseudo-skeptics attacking global warming were playing by the rules, such scorn would not be needed or appropriate. At some point, however, their repeated invocation of irrational and frequently debunked howlers demonstrates they really aren't interested in a scientific debate.

The denialists are about as interested in science as the creationists are.

Paul Dietz   ·  June 6, 2007 9:07 AM

Simply beautiful juxtaposition:

Tom: "Rather than having a discussion on the merits of the existence of human-caused climate change, you want to insult and silence the opposition."

Paul: "If the pseudo-skeptics attacking global warming were playing by the rules, such scorn would not be needed or appropriate. At some point, however, their repeated invocation of irrational and frequently debunked howlers demonstrates they really aren't interested in a scientific debate.

The denialists are about as interested in science as the creationists are."


(For what it's worth, the correct response to creationists is to patiently reiterate the scientific evidence. Gratuitous insults make it look like you don't have a legitimate response.

Also, I'm a "denialist" of two things you appear to believe:
a) The current rate of change of the global average annual temperature is unprecedented.
b) The burning of fossil fuels has caused the majority of the current rate of change of the global average annual temperature.

If you can point to scientific evidence for either of these propositions, I'd be very interested. For example, for the first, what's the current evidence on the rate of warming during the end of the last glacial period, c. 10,000 B.C.?)

Clint   ·  June 6, 2007 10:56 AM

you are all going to burn on Earth for this!

phil   ·  June 6, 2007 11:05 AM

If you can point to scientific evidence for either of these propositions, I'd be very interested. For example, for the first, what's the current evidence on the rate of warming during the end of the last glacial period, c. 10,000 B.C.?

According to the evidence summarized in the recent IPCC iteration, it was about 1/10th as fast as the current warming. See chapter 6.

Paul Dietz   ·  June 6, 2007 11:38 AM

Forests establish grow and die just as thee and me. Therefore, while there is such a thing as "deforestation" (ie. removing a forest from a given site), this condition is typically not a permanent situation unless it's purpose is land conversion. Land conversion, then, is the bogeyman, not deforestation. If there was a forest there before, there will be a forest there again if that's the management objective.
This is important because it's the younger, faster growing vegetation that uses the most carbon (and water, nutrients, minerals, etc.). In northern temperate forests of the inland west, forests establish, mature and senesce in about 250 years. The first half of that time period is the period of greatest growth and hence the greatest use of life-sustaining resources. West Coast forests are longer lived and the period of highest growth is longer as well. Southeast forests are shorter-lived and have correspondingly shorter high growth periods. I am not familiar with tropical forests, but I assume that the basic principals remain the same. The impact in the U.S., then, would be on "old-growth". On the other hand, you can't have old-growth without deforestation (while long-lived, forests don't last forever and old forests must give way to re-establishment at some point). Since the U.S. has about 490 million acres (765 thousand sqaure miles-think Washington, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Arizona, California and Oregon) of commercially-capable timberland, this necessary mix of seral stages shouldn't be a problem.

freetime   ·  June 6, 2007 12:08 PM

It'd be interesting to carbon date the CO2 in the atmosphere and see if it has isotopic ratios pointing to recent or paleo production, and find out if it's origin is from petrochemicals.

I'd also like to know what the effect of geologic carbon might be, since most of the carbon is bound up in rock, like limestone for instance. The formation or weathering rock might bind or release carbon into the environment.

And finally, I'd like to know the optimum temp for the earth. Everyone seems to want it to stay what it is now without knowing the pros-cons. It would be an amazing coincidence if the current temp is "just right".

Phil-Z   ·  June 6, 2007 1:01 PM

"It'd be interesting to carbon date the CO2 in the atmosphere and see if it has isotopic ratios pointing to recent or paleo production, and find out if it's origin is from petrochemicals."

It's been done. C12/C13 ratios prove that the rise in CO2 is man made. This is not disputed.

"I'd also like to know what the effect of geologic carbon might be, since most of the carbon is bound up in rock, like limestone for instance. The formation or weathering rock might bind or release carbon into the environment."

The amount of geologic carbon released in negligible on the time scales we are discussing.

"And finally, I'd like to know the optimum temp for the earth."

There is no real optimum temp for the Earth. But for human society the temprature range is fairly narrow before you need to start moving crops and people around. If change comes on too fast, there will be extreme consequences.

Boris   ·  June 6, 2007 1:17 PM

Well, that was easy. Not to be quarrelsome, but I'd love to read the articles. Do you have links, as my google-fu must be weak? The only reference I've found, and that was some time ago, was for the effect of carbonate weathering discussed in an old PBS special on climate. (They thought is was significant.)

Phil-Z   ·  June 6, 2007 1:46 PM

I never think it's quarrelsome to ask for refs. The carbon isotope studies are pretty difficult going. Here's a post at RealClimate:

I think weathering is only important over millions of years. At least I get thta impression from the ice core CO2 record.

Boris   ·  June 6, 2007 1:58 PM

"The public thinks that you have to wait until global warming is proved before you have to do something. That is completely rediculous because the other effects (referring to ozone damage) that are more easily measurable are already happening."

-F Dyson

Dopey   ·  June 6, 2007 2:32 PM

The sun has a luminosity of 3 x 10^ 26 joules/sec. A .1% change is an increase of 3 x 10^23 joules/sec. That is a huge increase of energy hitting the earth.


"Researchers have no doubt that for the last two thousand years there exists a direct relationship between bicentennial cyclic fluctuations of Suns luminosity and global changes in Earths climate. Studies of 11-year and bicentennial cyclic variations of Suns luminosity showed 11-year cycle having almost no effect on Earths climate change due to World Oceans thermal inertia."

FomotoCho   ·  June 6, 2007 2:33 PM

There is the argument that life will have to move to higher altitudes or to more polar regions to survive the increase in temperatures. "[P]resent-day repetitions of floristic inventories on two alpine mountain summits reveal increases of plant species richness by 58 and 67%, respectively, since the early 1950s." pg 16

With respect to non-migratory butterflies, "'[m]ost species effectively expanded the size of their range when shifting northwards,' which likely strengthened them against the possibility of extinction." pg 17

The page references are to

It seems that a warmer world increases biodiversity not hampers it. That includes the oceans where the calcification process has increased. It has not decreased due to acidificaton like Hansen predicts.

John M Reynolds

jmrSudbury   ·  June 6, 2007 3:49 PM


- I use the term denialist, because it reminds me so much of what cigarette-company "medical researchers" did to try to stave off the tons of statistics showing the connection between smoking cigarettes and lung cancer.

- With respect to being challenged: The only defense against people who are promulgating provable falsehood is to explain what is actually known, and to give evidence to that effect. We are not currently, and would not like to be, in a situation in which speaking falsehood is simply forbidden. (Before you say that "It is forbidden", I will point out that no one has been killed for saying global warming is not happening, so it is not. Before you make an accusation of oppression, think about what you are saying. One idiot's desire to impose prior constraint on speech does not make that constraint a fact - it's just wishful thinking, and foolish wishful thinking at that.)

Neal J. King   ·  June 6, 2007 7:11 PM


So what happens with the trees after we've decided we want to "change them out" for faster growing versions? How do we prevent them from just being burnt back into C-O2 and ash?

Neal J. King   ·  June 6, 2007 7:13 PM


0.1% of solar luminosity is a lot of power, but the Earth is pretty big as well. I did a calculation of how much of a temperature difference it would make, which is shown here:
Neal J. KingMay 21, 2007 01:53 PM:
the increase in the Earth's temperature directly due to a 0.1% luminosity increase would be 0.064 degrees-C.

Neal J. King   ·  June 6, 2007 7:21 PM

John M Reynolds,

Strangely enough, most biologists don't expect that to happen:
- Birds:

- Extinctions by the year 2050:

Neal J. King   ·  June 6, 2007 7:31 PM


What to do about trees?

Build houses.

M. Simon   ·  June 6, 2007 7:32 PM


I took the liberty of taking out your parens in

Neal J. King - June 6, 2007 07:31 PM

to make the links clickable.


M. Simon   ·  June 6, 2007 7:37 PM

The opening from the National Geographic piece.

Bolding mine:

By 2050, rising temperatures exacerbated by human-induced belches of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases could send more than a million of Earth's land-dwelling plants and animals down the road to extinction, according to a recent study.

It could happen.

They could be going down the road. The question is how far down the road will they get?

BTW will the coming ice age go down the same road in the other direction?

Or is our only chance to keep things just as they are?

Me? I believe in evolution. Adapt or die.

Plants will certainly like more CO2 in the atmosphere. I like trees. I eat plants. I see a plus there.

I don't see how a 1 deg C diff in annual variations of 50 deg C is going to make a huge difference in the biota of the planet.

What is more likey is that the range of various plants and animals will change. Which happens all the time with just weather variations and various preditor/prey cycles.

Well, time to get back to work on Bussard Fusion.

M. Simon   ·  June 6, 2007 7:57 PM

M. Simon,

- The next ice age is not expected for 10s of thousands of years. We're going to effect a change of similar magnitude in about 200. Put on your engineering hat for a moment: a change of timescale of a factor of 50 or more should have some consequences.

- 50 degrees C variation? That's highly unusual. The highest variation among cities in the U.S. is in Fairbanks, Alaska, which gets 90.8 degrees Fahrenheit, or 50.44. I don't think that's considered a normal range of variation.

- There is a difference between adaptation and dying out. From what I have read, it takes about a million years for enough novelty to arise that you get a new species. Our flora & fauna won't have that long. We'll lose lots.

You might care later, if it turns out that some plant species disappeared that had the beginnings of a drug that would cure a disease that might develop. (Like taxol, in the yew tree, for breast cancer.) Oh, but that's right: It'll be gone, so you'll never find out...

Neal J. King   ·  June 6, 2007 9:19 PM

Next to last paragraph of the Nature article;
"There is a significant chance that this is an overestimate of the effects of changing vegetation. Previously published work2 has suggested that many animals may shift their ranges in pursuit of their favourite plants and climes. But without satisfying models of this process, the researchers chose to assume that the birds would not change their geographical range in response to the altered ecosystem around them.
Well what would you expect from a UN funded study aiming to "prove" that animals would be affected by climate?
I guess the UN got their moneys worth.

Papertiger   ·  June 6, 2007 9:27 PM


Yes, but the last word is:

"The study is an excellent attempt to integrate land use and climate change," says Stanford University ecologist Terry Root. But given the inherent uncertainty of long-term models, Root urges caution before reading too much into the hard numbers. "We need to take what they've said very seriously, if not completely literally," she says. "I think what this is saying is that we are in trouble, and I think we are."

Neal J. King   ·  June 6, 2007 9:40 PM

They convinced Neal. That's worth something.

Papertiger   ·  June 7, 2007 12:34 AM

In the town I live in the Chicago latitude winter temperatures of -10 F are regular occurances -20 F is not unheard of. Summer temperatures of 90 F are regular occurances. 100 F is not unheard of.

Normal variation is then 100 deg F and extremes can be 120 deg F.

5/9 * 100 = 55.6 deg C delta
5/9 * 100 = 66.7 deg C delta

So my saying that temperatures variations of 50 deg C over a year are entirely reasonable.

Do we get that in one day? No.

Birds - which do not handle such a wide range migrate. Their migration patterns will change.

A change in average temperature of even a few deg C is not going to kill off millions of species. Unless your analysis assumes that the range of a given population is restricted. Which of course it is not. Same for plants. They don't migrate as fast. However even a 10 deg F change in 100 years is only .1 deg F per year. Annuals will have no trouble. Longer lived plans will spread to their optimum areas by seed migration. Birds are a help with that.

I think the Natn'l Geographic article is just Climate Change Porn.

Assuming the study the article was based on was done by reputable scientists, all it proves is that given the "correct" assumptions you can get any answer you want.

I have heard numerous anecdotes that funding for any kind of science is easier to get if you can tie it into climate change.

One has to wonder if this is an example of that?

I'd like to see what oil company funded scientists might have to say on the matter.

Politicized science helps no one. However, it is not unusual. The Soviets were big on that sort of thing. A certain country run by an Austrian Corporal followed a similar path.

Is something like that happening with Climate Science? I have my suspicions. One of the things that make me suspicious is that the answer always is: restriction on energy use and highger taxes. Technological fixes (nuclear plants and wind turbines) and bio-remediation (planting trees) are never considered viable alternatives. In fact Kyoto specifically rejected bioremediation - a USA proposal. Political? It would seem so.

M. Simon   ·  June 7, 2007 4:46 AM

M Simon. Your second formula should be:
5/9 * 140 = 66.7 deg C delta.

Neal, the biodiversity of the plants -- thus the food was found to increase. The southern extreme did not move northward significantly while the northern limit did. That increase in range means a larger feeding ground and thus less chance of extinction. The land use issue is indeed a problem, but is different than climate change. Actually, increased CO2 makes plants more efficient in their water use and makes them grow better at higher temperatures. That will help ease the push to convert wilderness to farmland. -- John M Reynolds

jmrSudbury   ·  June 7, 2007 9:08 AM


I just checked 5*120 = 600

600/9 = 66.6666666666 - for the Aleister Crowley fans.

M. Simon   ·  June 7, 2007 10:48 AM

I did my addition wrong.

The multiplication was fine.

It should be

120 * 5/9 = 66.66666666

M. Simon   ·  June 7, 2007 10:54 AM

M. Simon,

I guess the list I was able to find for temperature variation
doesn't include Chicago. Strange.

Warmer climates will extend all ranges toward the poles, but flora & fauna that are adapted for colder climates will be squeezed. So I think this special case cannot be generalized to the conclusion that most species will become wider in range.

Kind of too bad, since some of the weirdest species newly discovered are in the oceans in the polar regions. Who knows what we've been missing, that will disappear since they've got no further to run?

John M Reynolds: I don't view turning wilderness into farmland as a cure for GW. One of my principal concerns about GW is decline in biodiversity (There are implications for our future pharmacopia, for the utilitarian-minded). Surely you don't claim that farmlands have more biodiversity than wilderness?

Neal J. King   ·  June 7, 2007 11:12 AM

In another 50 years plant Pharmacopia will be a quaint anachronism.

OTOH we may be able to at least make micro-organisms to order. With all the usual pluses and minuses.

M. Simon   ·  June 7, 2007 11:18 AM


Do you want to bet your life on that? and the lives of others?

And what about the 43 years between then and now?

Neal J. King   ·  June 7, 2007 2:00 PM

I've bet my life on Moore's Law. It has worked out well so far.

Biosciences are following a similar path.

Designing exactly what you want is a better way to get drugs than looking around for potentially useful chemicals.

BTw what if we get a temperature decline? Won't that harm some of the biota as well?

OK what would I prefer to bet on? Bioscience is a better place to invest than energy reduction. The odds of a useful pay off is better.

Which is what it all comes down to. Put the money into fear or into hope? I'm a hope kind of guy. Like General Grant I don't scare worth a damn.

M. Simon   ·  June 7, 2007 8:02 PM

Then again, Nigel Calder and Henryk Svensmark posit
that an active Sun swats away cosmic rays, which are
responsible for cloud formation and cooling, hence a
less cloudy atmosphere and subject to warming; data
on glacial till taken from the oceanic samples along with
the signatures of cosmic rays in the fossil record support
the hypothesis, along with Svensmark's pioneering
understanding of how clouds form in the first place. In short
local effects are subject to solar and galactic activity.

Allan Blackwell   ·  June 8, 2007 12:38 AM

Neal why is it that you think there has to be a new species for adaptation to proceed?
Birds migrate by reading the geomagnetic field to make their course. But the geomagnetic field isn't stationary.
Somehow the birds manage to find their way. This is adaptation to changing circumstances without some lofty genetic diversion (which has never been witnessed in the real world).
I imagine that if a particular creature is alive today, it must have thousands of hidden survival talents, that we are unaware of. Modern species are the ones who adapted best to change.
They will continue to do so despite the hysterical fears of Nat Geo editors.

Papertiger   ·  June 8, 2007 12:41 AM

Urban Heat effect? No.
You can see that its heating up a lot over many areas in the northern hemisphere that dont have any big cities: northern Canada and Alaska, for instance. And also over some ocean areas, too.
You are mistaking Woodland for a big city. It's not- as of the census of 2000, there were 49,151 people.
You don't like Woodland? Here is another world thermometer, location Lodi pop. 62,133.
Simon, I don't know jack about the heat given off of electrical switchgear, but it seems as if there must be at least enough to warrant that bank of radiators and fans.
What is your opinion?

Papertiger   ·  June 8, 2007 2:13 AM

You think a 0.6 degree rise might get lost in there?

Papertiger   ·  June 8, 2007 2:19 AM

Simon: I have a certain confidence in technological development; but not the degree of absolute faith that you seem to display. Part of common sense is knowing that it's sometimes a better bet not to jump into the water tank from 40 feet up - if you don't have to. And I think we don't.

Alan Blackwell: There has been a long discussion of the cosmic-ray question here, which you can find at:
My bottom line is that, however interesting it may be for certain long-term historical correlations, it doesn't seem to have much to do with the GW we've been seeing in the last century, and most specifically not since 1988. But please check out the thread. (And since there is so much stuff there, it would probably be saner to keep detailed discussion on that same thread.)

- For one thing, there are already high %s of species dying out. I think I posted that somewhere already: about 3 species per hour.
- For another, as I pointed out on another thread, birds are still getting killed because they haven't adapted to windows. Why should they be able to adapt to having the nature of their territory changed over a couple hundred years when they haven't adapted to windows in that period of time? Adaptation by evolution works slowly.

- What I pointed to was the map of temperature increase over the globe. There are large "red" (warming) areas that pretty much cover the Northern Hemisphere, including many uninhabited regions like the north polar regions and part of the oceans. 0.6-C is a global average.

Neal J. King   ·  June 8, 2007 4:53 AM

You think a 0.6 degree rise might get lost in there?
Notice how Neal tap dances away from the question. A global temperature is only as good as the individual site measurements. Lodi and Woodland are both rated as rural measuring stations inspite of being located in heat sinks. Perhaps these stations at one time were truly in rural settings, and the city grew up around them over the last thirty years or so. Just the same time frame as the newpaper headlines switched from reporting eminent global cooling, to eminent global warming.
Coincidence? I think not.
By the way, your hero James Hansen agrees with me on this point.
Karl and Hansen Condemn Poor USHCN Metadata

Why should they be able to adapt to having the nature of their territory changed over a couple hundred years when they haven't adapted to windows in that period of time?
Maybe because they can fly? If Arizona is too hot for a bird, over yonder is Colorado.

Papertiger   ·  June 8, 2007 8:41 PM


- The trend of temperature increase is attested to by satellite measurements, over some decades, and which are not affected by local stations.

- Many creatures depend on several factors in their environment to survive, and it can easily be understood that a change in one factor cannot be compensated by others; or even if it can, that that new combination of factor is not accessible.

Here is a snapshot on the problems reindeer are experiencing in the far north:

"Usually, reindeer spend the winter on the inland plateau of northern Scandinavia and migrate about mid-April to the Barents Sea coast, where they stay until around mid-October. But problems have arisen.

"Some herders have had to delay the migration to the coast by a month because it was too mild. Rivers and lakes were not frozen enough to cross," Elna Sara from the International Centre for Reindeer Husbandry told AFP.

Traditionally the reindeer walk across the plateau to reach the coast, while the herders themselves use snowmobiles or four-wheel motorbikes.

But, Sara explained, "in the past five years, some herders have had to put the reindeers in trucks to make the migration."

Reindeer also have more difficulties finding food these days.

"It rains more often in winter. If it freezes afterwards, the snow is covered with ice and the reindeers can't dig through to find lichen," explains Sara, dressed in a gaki, a traditional Sami costume with detailed embroideries and silver jewellery.

And new insect species from southern regions are threatening the animals.

Wood ticks, which up until now were found in southern Norway, have started migrating north because of warmer temperatures.

"They suck the blood out of reindeer and give them infections and diseases," Johan Mikkel Sara told AFP.

"The future is becoming too unpredictable. If it continues like this, reindeer husbandry might have to stop," he added."

In this case, we have people who live by taking care of reindeer, so we can get a detailed breakdown of their problems. Do you think that wild animals, without caretakers, will be immune from similar issues?

(from an article from Norway

Neal J. King   ·  June 8, 2007 9:33 PM

The trend of temperature increase is attested to by satellite measurements, over some decades, and which are not affected by local stations
But they are affected by a political climate, which when confronted with a surface temp and satellite temp record discrepency, rushed to "adjust" the satellite.
Because thousands of readings from places like Lodi, Quincy , and Woodland, when properly massaged by "consensus" approved adjustments, prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that two satellites with overlapping ranges, cross checked by balloon launched thermometers absolutely must be wrong.

Papertiger   ·  June 9, 2007 2:01 AM


- To the best of my knowledge, any adjustment of the temperatures was done after detailed consultation among the competing teams of researchers. Their whole project would have the justification of providing a method of measuring temperatures independent of local conditions and local practices, so it doesn't make sense (nor would they take kindly to the suggestion) to simply re-calibrate their data analysis to match the ground-level measurements. It could be that at an early stage, they were getting strange results, and were thus inspired to look for inconsistencies their analysis: That's actually quite legitimate, I know people in experimental physics who take years trying to make sure that the numbers they're getting are not swayed by unknown factors: It's called "getting rid of the systematics".

They had this problem with an inconsistency among balloon and satellite temperature measurements for a decade, and it was taken very seriously: the climatologists worried about it (it's mentioned in the IPCC TAR), and the skeptics trumpeted it. But in 2005, the three competing teams found that an algebra mistake that had been hiding in their software for 10 years had been causing this discrepancy. (I'm sure the guy who was responsible for that part of the program was horribly embarrassed.) So that discrepancy went away.

I'm not aware of any attempt to "correct" satellite data that is not based on the internals of the satellite's own instrumentation, procedures and analytical techniques. If you are, please describe what happened, and how you know.

Neal J. King   ·  June 9, 2007 5:31 AM


These things wouldn't be hidden for long if the project was open source,

M. Simon   ·  June 10, 2007 11:39 PM


Probably not. But open source, while welcomed for people developing free-ware (like Linux), is not the general strategy used by scientists, who are frankly competing for funding in their respective fields. They don't like to release something until they've squeezed the last drop of meaning out of it.

Does that seem selfish? Perhaps; but remember that if a scientist doesn't get his grant renewed, he's got to shut down the lab and drop the project. So being the "firstest with the mostest" is important.

Going "open kimono" is actually rare. It's come up in cases of suspected fraud, when there was extremely strong evidence, that could be seen from a detailed look at the publications, of a serious problem.

Neal J. King   ·  June 11, 2007 3:18 AM


You don't suppose the competition for funding is so fierce that the scientists are telling the funders what they want to hear do you?

Millions of species by 2050 ring a bell?

M. Simon   ·  June 11, 2007 9:26 AM

Let me add that the IPCC charter says they are looking for man's effect on climate change.

I bet if their Charter said they were looking for natural causes and errors in the data they would find something else.

M. Simon   ·  June 11, 2007 12:46 PM

M. Simon,

The problem with assuming a scientific "conspiracy" of that type is that it leaves a scientist too vulnerable to being shot down someday. Such behavior constitutes scientific fraud, and once someone is convicted of that, his career is over. After that, it doesn't matter how smart he is - his name is mud. He's finished.

There are thousands of professional climate scientists who contribute and critique the draft of the IPCC documents, and who do & publish the research upon which the IPCC draws to make it's conclusions. They don't care what the charter says.

Neal J. King   ·  June 11, 2007 3:12 PM

There are thousands of professional climate scientists who contribute and critique the draft of the IPCC documents, and who do & publish the research upon which the IPCC draws to make it's conclusions. They don't care what the charter says.

But Neal that contradicts your point about scientists fighting for funding. If the bulk of the money spend on "CO2 is the cause of global warming" what kind of grant applications are the scientists going to write in their vicious search for funding?

The scientists will hedge with "mights" and "coulds" and the IPCC summary will elevate that to 95% confidence on what statistical basis?

I have seen no mention of how the high probabilities are arrived at. Where is the statistical evidence?

In addition let us start with the ground monitoring instruments. Where is the traceability back to NIST standards? I have yet to see anything on even that simplest of factors. What is the gaussian distribution of instrument accuracy?

We don't even know that simplest factor of instrument data gathering accuracy. Then given what we have seen so far in the siting of the instruments how much confidence can we have in the raw data?

In other words we don't even have any good numbers on instrument correlations from say 1920 to the present. We do have numbers. Are they good? No NIST traceability - no good.

So let us start with NIST/NBS - where is the traceability?

M. Simon   ·  June 11, 2007 10:54 PM

M. Simon:

- The IPCC charter relates to the people who draw up the report. But they have to draw up the report on the basis of the published papers in climate studies and related fields, over the world's scientific literature (and particularly since the last report). These, however, are produced by people who are doing research in their various specialties, giving classes, etc.: being scientists. They are not being paid by the IPCC, they are being paid as professors (who earn money by teaching) or researchers (who earn money by doing the best investigation they can), or both. They might take some hints from the last report (noticing a hole or apparent inconsistency therein mentioned as a possibly fruitful target of research), but they don't direct their work to supporting the IPCC's reputation: In fact, it's to the advantage of the individual scientist to stand out by finding something new, whether it supports the concept of GW or not.

- As discussed in another thread, there are two types of uncertainty addressed: statistical uncertainty and conceptual uncertainty. For the first, numbers can be calculated, just as for any instrumentation. I'm not a climatologist, so I can't go into detail on that point. But inasmuch as they use scientific instrumentation, there are ways of putting limits on the possible errors. Why should climate-measurement instrumentation be different from any other technical instrumentation on that point? You want to find out, dig up the technical manual for the instrument you have in mind, and start analyzing it.

No NIST/NBS? Does that mean there was no science and no scientists before NIST? Gee, I wonder who started up NIST, who trained them, etc.

To continue on, there are also non-statistical uncertainties, which can be based on measurements ("systematics") or which can be purely conceptual.

Systematics are the hardest thing to get out of the experiment: They have to be found by doing measurements several different ways, looking for inconsistencies, checking the results against other measurements, etc. It's actually really tough, and you can never really be sure, within one experiment, that you have gotten rid of all the systematics (or even all the significant systematics). Future experimenters will either find that your numbers hold up, or that they don't. Famous example: Millikan did the first direct measurement of the charge of the electron. It was a great experiment, he got the Nobel prize - and he deserved it. Yet, over a period of some 30 years, as people did new and different versions of his experiment, and also applied other techniques, their value for the electron's charge drifted away from his original result, and well outside of his statistical error-bounds. So he turned out to be in error, beyond the statistical error: It was the systematics that got him. But that doesn't really change the nature of his accomplishment: he pioneered a new kind of experiment and got numbers that were a good starting point. Other generations were able to improve on his work. That's the nature of science.

Of course, the hardest uncertainties to quantify are the conceptual ones: "Do we have basically the right way of thinking about this issue?" As with systematics, in principle, this is always open. However, it is essentially a collective judgment of the relevant scientific community as to what is most likely up for grabs and what is not. In the area of particle physics these days, proposals to allow a theory to violate conservation of energy or electrical charge will be met with stony rejection, but proposals to change the number of dimensions will not. To the outsider, it is not at all clear why this should be the case: What makes the number of dimensions more malleable than the amount of electrical charge? But to string theorists, it is pretty clear why they are allowed to exercise more freedom in this regard.

In the case of the IPCC report, some of the conceptual uncertainties are expressed in language such as "virtually certain", which is intended to mean probability > 99%. Now, strictly speaking, for a conceptual uncertainty, you can't calculate an actual probability. In these cases, the point was that the words have to express a "gut feel" of the collective judgment, but the goal was to make sure that there was a common understanding of what language you use to express the "gut feel". So that one lead author wouldn't use the term "virtually certain" to mean "it's inconceivable that it could be otherwise" whilst another lead author would use it to mean "It's possible, but I'd bet $10,000 against it.", and while yet another would use it to mean "I'll buy you a subscription to Playboy if it's true."

According to the folks at RealClimate, not everyone liked that particular way of choosing to express the degree of certainty and uncertainty for conceptual issues. But let me ask you: Do you have a better suggestion? How should a group of diverse people find a common language to discuss their understanding of the conceptual uncertainty involved in a technical subject? Because even mathematics has conceptual uncertainties.

Neal J. King   ·  June 12, 2007 3:15 AM

How about they shut the hell up about "conceptual uncertainty involved in a technical subject" until they have actual certainty, and quit trying to ruin the careers of good people for showing the slightest bit of doubt about AGW.
That would work for me.

Papertiger   ·  June 12, 2007 2:39 PM


There is no such thing as "actual certainty" in science. (Although the 2nd law of thermodynamics and conservation of energy are pretty darn close.)

There is only a point at which reasonable people have decided that the remaining puzzles are not that important, and will be filled in (probably accidentally) by later workers.

Neal J. King   ·  June 12, 2007 4:04 PM


NIST/NBS was founded on March 3, 1901.

So there ought to be traceability going back at least 50 years. Maybe 75.

So where are the records?

Let us go back even 10 years. Where are the records?

M. Simon   ·  June 12, 2007 6:15 PM

M. Simon,

What specific records are you talking about?

If you want to talk about accuracy of equipment, we have to talk about specific equipment. Not being involved in the actual work, I wouldn't know any more about that than I would about the mileage of YOUR car.

Neal J. King   ·  June 12, 2007 7:37 PM

The calibration records of the specific instruments used at specific weather stations.

You can pick any one(s) you like.

So far I have seen no on site calibrations (i.e. instrument last calibrated before it shipped).

M. Simon   ·  June 13, 2007 3:16 AM

M. Simon,

Have you asked the people who run them?

Neal J. King   ·  June 13, 2007 3:26 AM

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