Home > Uncategorized > Global warming: bet on it

Global warming: bet on it

I guess it is time to publish this graph, from the USA NASA.gov site. My prediction: this series will soon be discontinued. I did add some text, as grading has tought me that even intelligent people often have difficulties with the interpretation of graphs. My interpretation: the ‘no warming’ meme, which has been quite influential in climate denial circles, is and Always has been bonkers and climate change is progressing faster than expected. But are these deniers really stupid, or bad at understanding graphs? According to Alex Tabarrok, ‘a bet is a tax on bullshit’. I’ve tried, several times, to make serious long-term bets with vehement deniers… To no avail.


  1. patrick newman
    November 10, 2016 at 10:28 am

    Global warming – commerial short term interests ‘Trumps’ overwhelming science whether in graph form or otherwise. Could the USA now drop out of the world movement to deal with climate change. Will it be necessary for a cataclysmic environmental event to shake the deniers out of their self interested and when that happens will it be too late?

  2. November 10, 2016 at 11:19 am

    Assuming that the above estimates are accurate and representative of global temperatures in the relevant sense (something I am unable to experimentally verify) it is still not at all obvious that anthropogenic global warming is a ‘bad’ thing. If the relevant criterion of value were taken to be the maximum survival then, quite plausibly, global warming may be beneficial, a blessing in disguise at least for the time being, as it could improve chances of survival through the inevitably approaching (not if but when) ice age.

    I feel there are more immediate and present threats to humanity to worry about than global warming, things that kill us Now and create suffering on a monumental scale, like economic deprivation of the third and second world via predatorial practices by the global financial elites, and where these fail: overt wars of conquest. Let us not be overly distracted by some speculative idea of the end of humanity when a very tactile, 3D, blood and guts and hunger treat is starring us in the face.

    • merijntknibbe
      November 10, 2016 at 11:41 am

      Great arguments. Do you want to take a bet?

      Merijn Knibbe

      • November 10, 2016 at 12:05 pm

        Bet on what specific claim?

      • November 10, 2016 at 10:22 pm

        I’ll take the bet, but you obviously first need to formulate it with some precision.

  3. charlie
    November 10, 2016 at 5:12 pm

    the no warming pause was indeed bad interpretation .. on so many levels. deniers used simple linear regression models to look at time series data! Melting of ice takes 90 times that of increasing the temperature of water (phys-chem) Plant physiology maps shifted north during the period, insect populations exploded in the mountain environments. Forest fires took on epic proportions… egad
    the food production / population dynamics / warfare is at least partly the effect of global warming et cetera ..

  4. November 10, 2016 at 5:32 pm

    Interesting graph. I wouldn’t bet on it, though. I’d want to know the causes of the changes; whether there are two causes (economists might think of demand decreasing and supply increasing), so effectively two graphs superimposed, with global warming exceeding the expected global cooling (which got as far as the English channel getting ice along its shores) from around the start of the first world war, steepening sharply over WWII. As for which is worse, warming or cooling, I suppose Icelanders might enjoy the warming for a while, but I doubt coral islanders whose homes are being submerged are feeling the same about it. In the long term, the issue is whether deep-frozen life reflecting solar radiation will regenerate better than cooked life absorbing it.

    My advice to Mr Trump would to be to hedge his bets: certainly to put his coal-miners back to work, but for more hi-tech uses of coal than burning it and on replacements like solar panels, reflective sunshades and [letting the imagination rip!] forest-regeneration schemes irrigated by desalination plants powered by wind [tornado?] farming: all of which (unlike destroying tropical forests to produce beef-burgers) leave space for our cohabitation with grazing animals and wildlife. Our choices are not just either-or but also both and neither.

    • November 10, 2016 at 10:20 pm

      Good point Dave. Calling anthropogenic global warming a conspiracy theory is not a prudent basis of action for a president. While I have my doubts about the accuracy and relevance of some results (inferences and value judgements, actually) associated with the climate change science, I keep my mind open to new evidence.

      Our activity/industry certainly affects climate, in a sense that everything affects everything, but is the effect significant enough to justify the expenditure: does a dollar spent on countering anthropogenic effect on climate return a dollar or more worth of value (of whatever kind that we all can roughly agree on).

      In any case, developing sustainable energy sources offers a win win situation, but not at any cost, and not at taxpayers expense.

  5. Paul Davidson
    November 10, 2016 at 9:31 pm

    can someone tell me how I can post a new comment on this blog showing the Trump election is further proof on my claim that people’s economic and political behavior involves a nonergodic stochastic process????????????????????????

  6. November 12, 2016 at 9:34 am

    In the words of my favorite politician, Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma climate change is a “hoax” invented by China to subvert the US. Aided and abetted by liberal/elitist politicians, writer, media, and professors, and by the UN. Inhofe’s book “Hoax” is an instructive example of the assertion that where one ends up depends on where one begins. Inhofe begins with four assumptions: 1) capitalism is the best economic way of life forever; 2) the world is made up of individuals who are each responsible for the consequences of their actions; 3) economic development (capitalist development) can solve most resource and environmental problem; 4) humans are protected by God, so climate change cannot be real. So, climate change is a hoax. But even if it weren’t God would protect us from it. Inhofe hates environmentalists, the UN, and “elites” for wanting to construct a utopian world. I think utopian is the perfect description of Inhofe’s explanations and objections to proposed causes of and responses to climate change impacts. And he manages to protect and conserve capitalism, neo-liberalism, US nationalism, and Christianity, while perpetuating the conspiracy theory that international elites want to destroy the US.

  7. Geoff Davies
    November 12, 2016 at 11:39 pm

    The no-warming meme was mostly based on taking 1998 as the start year – thus suggesting a false “normal”. Shifting the start by one year changes the impression. So it was simple, blatant cherry picking of data.
    Even the “pause” was just a slowdown, not unlike the slowdowns in the 1980s and 1990s. So it was all about taking a limited view of the observations.

    Dave Taylor – I’m a bit surprised by you. There’s a lot of climate science you could read up on to answer your questions. They’re not stupid you know, these climate scientists. They’ve thought of all the questions people still come up with.

    Michael Kowalik – you could learn a bit about ecology and the effect of some species being able to move and adapt faster than others. The present rate of change is much faster than past natural changes. Briefly – we can expect, plagues, extinctions and collapses with many unpleasant consequences. You could also learn about the populations and cities living within a few meters of sea level, and the $ value of the harbours of those cities. Among many potential and nasty consequences. You exhibit a remarkable lack of curiosity and imagination if some of these things have never occurred to you.

    To me these comments offer a disquieting insight into the level of psychological denial still operating in the face of increasingly abundant and clear evidence not only for global warming but that it is going *faster* than the much-maligned projections, as Merijn noted.

    • November 13, 2016 at 7:58 am

      Offcourse it did occur to me. What I would welcome though is a wholistic economic model that takes into account all associated factors. I am also worried about reliability/accuracy of the data because it is next to impossible for me to verify it. I don’t doubt that some climate scientists are very smart and competent, but this has no bearing whatsoever on whether they are telling us the truth. Verification is essential for me, especially in such a heavily politicised area of science. But saying that I am very conscious of my consumption choices and try to do the best for the environment, on a precautionary principle regarding climate change too. But on this last point I am conflicted.

      Assuming that anthropogenic warming is real and existentially significant to at least some communities, animal species etc., it is also a commonly accepted fact that the next ice age will surely come, in which case the greenhouse effect could neutralise or offset the glacial reflective effect, improving general survival of humanity and animal/plant species. Even if the next ice age lasted for thousands of years we could still mitigate it all the way through by maintaining high saturation of co2 (and perhaps other gasses) in the atmosphere. Some theorists claim that fossil fuels would last only 300 years into the ice age, so we would be done for anyway, but we are not limited to fossil fuels but also have self-regenerating woody vegetation which could continue to flourish if the greenhouse effect were maintained.

      What are your thoughts on this flip side of the warming issue?

      • Geoff Davies
        November 14, 2016 at 12:16 am

        Michael it takes tens of thousands of years for an ice age to develop, in fits and starts. We would have abundant time for a bit of geo-engineering, if we wanted to do that. In the meantime we are pushing temperatures extremely rapidly above what they have been for at least three million years. It’s a spurious concern.

        “Verification” is not simple in natural systems. That is where the multiple lines of evidence come into play – evidence that warming is happening, evidence that our emissions of greenhouse gases are the primary cause, evidence that other mooted causes cannot account for what is happening now. There are direct measurements of energy flows, evidence from the atmospheric temperature profile, evidence from sediments from the last interglacial 100,000 years ago, evidence from ice cores, syntheses using various computer models, on and on. The 99% plus consensus of climate scientists is because of these multiple independent lines of evidence. There are web sites that do a good job of summarising the evidence, you should seek them out if you’re really interested.

        Most “sceptics”, in my observation, seize upon one or two fragments of evidence, which are either wrong or misinterpreted, and remain oblivious to the full picture.

        Of course economists could take lessons from all this – how to build a credible case in the presence of complications and uncertainties.

    • November 14, 2016 at 1:32 am

      Geoff, I wasn’t asking questions, I was interpreting a graph and indicating the type of questions I ask in such circumstances, i.e. about causes rather than weight of evidence.

      And you may be wrong on ice ages taking a long time to develop. Some years back now it was reported that something like the pollen record found in a cave indicated an abrupt transition – within a single year – at the beginning of the last age. The hypothesis was that the arctic ice cap had melted, flooded down through the Great Lakes and St Lawrence basin and cooled down the Gulf Stream sufficiently to turn off its thermal cycling.

      • Geoff Davies
        November 14, 2016 at 2:55 am

        Dave, shutting down the Gulf Stream would cause regional cooling, not an ice age. Indeed it seems to have happened, though I hadn’t heard of it happening so quickly. And there are relatively rapid fluctuations in the last, slow descent into ice age.

    • November 16, 2016 at 2:49 am

      The question what causes periods of cataclysmic global cooling and how long a transition would take seems far from settled. Consider for example this recent article:

      We can add a couple more potential causes: asteroid impact instantaneously perturbing the earths orbit, or a nuclear war. Off course, either of these events would be cataclysmic in itself. The consequent cooling would just add to its cataclysmic impact.

      • Geoff Davies
        November 16, 2016 at 8:57 pm

        Michael, you’re quoting the Daily Express? The Daily Excess? Not the most august scientific journal. I was going to make a careful response about some of the claims, which are in my field, but just know the claims about earthquakes and volcanos are unsubstantiated, to say the least. If you were serious about your quest for rigour you would soon find the web sites that summarise reputable science.

        The article is strong evidence of one thing – we are likely soon to suffer a new DARK age, thanks to Murdoch, Trump, et al.

        And your last point? Perhaps I’ll let my house burn down so there’s no risk of a truck running into it and demolishing it.

  8. Geoff Davies
    November 13, 2016 at 12:09 am

    Oh and the above graph doesn’t include 2016, which already shows an even bigger increase (to about 1.02) than from 2014-2015. The 3-year increase (0.66 – 1.02 = 0.36) seems to be unprecedented in the record shown above. See http://www.columbia.edu/~mhs119/Temperature/

    This deserves the description “alarming”. (As if it wasn’t already, and as distinct from the messengers being “alarmist”.)

    • November 13, 2016 at 5:02 am

      Geoff, even if all you say is backed by “smart” scientists all over the world, you still miss the point. You and these scientists, and Jim Inhofe and people who agree with him do not live in the same world. Their world is: capitalism is great and perfect and can, if unimpeded by the elite left-wing demagogues solve all resource and environmental issues; God protects all believers; and responsibility can be assigned only to individuals-bad people and good people. These folks read what you write here and dismiss it as more elitist propaganda. To make a difference in this world we need to operate within it and gradually expand it, if we can.

      • Geoff Davies
        November 13, 2016 at 6:06 am

        Ken I don’t disagree with you. I was really intending my comment for those of us who don’t reject global warming, but who may not be cognisant of the extremity of recent warming.

        I’ve made my own post here for those interested in a quick summary:

      • November 13, 2016 at 9:31 am

        Sorry, Geoff for misreading your posts.

      • Geoff Davies
        November 13, 2016 at 11:59 pm

        No worries mate.

  9. Marcelo Ribeiro
    November 14, 2016 at 3:59 am

    It is not a question of stupidity or inability to read plots, but mistrust of the data itself. Where is the data concerning warming of the oceans as they make up 71% of the planet’s surface? The skeptics are not stupid either, they simply do not buy the interpretation that humans are capable of changing the climate of the planet.

    • merijntknibbe
      November 14, 2016 at 8:59 am

      Dear Marcelo,

      you seemed to have missed the irony. But in your case I won’t be ironic: you just did not do your homework: “Not only are ocean surface waters getting warmer, but so is water 1,500 feet below the surface. These increases in temperature lie well outside the bounds of natural variation.

      In fact, the ocean has absorbed so much heat—about 20 times as much as the atmosphere over the past half-century—that some models suggest that it is likely to warm the air another degree Fahrenheit (0.55° Celsius) worldwide over the coming decades.

      Although ocean temperatures are more difficult to measure than land temperatures, scientists can use several methods to create an extensive ocean record.
      •Dropped from ships or airplanes, probes gauging the ocean’s conductivity, temperature, and density provide nearly continuous surface-to-bottom measurements at specific times. However, these probes rarely reoccupy an exact location.
      •Remote vehicles can measure the temperature of deep ocean waters, and periodically surface to transfer the information to satellites.
      •Moorings on the ocean bottom can measure temperatures at fixed distances above the bottom, until a ship retrieves the instruments—typically after a few months or years.
      •The most common measurements, however, are taken at the sea surface. Scientists combine these measurements with land surface measurements to calculate the global average temperature.
      •Scientists also know that ocean temperatures are rising because warm-water species are moving into areas that were formerly too cold, while cool-water and cold-water species are likewise on the move.”

      From this site: http://www.climatehotmap.org/global-warming-effects/ocean-temperature.html

      • November 14, 2016 at 9:50 am

        Those who deny climate change with anthropogenic origins either show no interest in data and graphs, or use these as strawmen to attack climate change science and scientists. Denier arguments are political (climate change is an elitist plot to destroy freedom; economic freedom particularly), economic (we can’t afford climate change mitigation); and often religious (God will protect us and guide us). For example the denier Trump is likely to put in charge of the EPA Myron Ebell, a Washington fixture who has long been a cheerful warrior against what he sees as an alarmist, overzealous environmental movement that has used global warming as a pretext for expanding government. An alumni of the Competitive Enterprise Institute, Ebell is not a scientist and has long questioned the overwhelming scientific consensus that human activity is fueling unprecedented global warming. He also has staunchly opposed what he calls energy rationing, instead arguing that the United States should unleash the full power of coal, oil and gas to fuel economic growth and job creation. I don’t believe Ebell would recognize climate change research if it was pointed out to him. And the future welfare of our nation and the world is in this dimwit’s hands. Scary.

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